* Launches friendly C$443 million offer
* Verenex shares surge 22 percent to C$9.53 (Adds analyst comment, updates stock prices)
CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 26 (Reuters) - China National Petroleum Corp launched a friendly C$443 million ($357 million) offer for Verenex Energy Inc VNX.TO on Thursday to give the state-owned oil company a stake in a promising Libyan oil concession.
Shares of Calgary-based Verenex, which operates in part of the Ghadames Basin in Libya, surged C$1.75, or 22 percent, to C$9.55 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Under the deal, CNPC’s international arm will offer C$10 in cash for each share of Verenex, representing a 28 percent premium to Wednesday’s closing price. The company’s stock sold for C$10.52 a year ago.
With the assumption of debt, the deal is worth C$499 million, the companies said.
Vermilion Energy Trust VET_u.TO, which owns 45 percent of Verenex, has agreed to tender its shares to the offer. Units of Vermilion jumped C$2.34, or 10 percent, to C$24.97 in Toronto.
Verenex said last September it was reviewing strategic alternatives including a sale, as a way to boost value for shareholders.
“We believe that this announcement represents reasonable value for Verenex shareholders, particularly in light of the sharp downturn in crude prices since the sale was announced in early September 2008,” UBS Securities analyst Grant Hofer wrote in a note to clients.
Hofer said he did not believe another bidder was in the works, due to the extensive sale process.
The deal marks the latest in a recent string of foreign takeovers of Canadian companies, including a bid for Nova Chemicals Corp NCX.TO by Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co, friendly acquisition of Bow Valley Energy BVX.TO by Britain’s Dana Petroleum DNX.L and a hostile play for UTS Energy Corp UTS.TO by Total SA (TOTF.PA) of France.
The Verenex deal is contingent on consent from the Libyan National Oil Corp, with which the company has an exploration and production-sharing agreement.
That go-ahead has not been received yet and the companies said they could not guarantee it would be.
Verenex is operator of Area 47 and has a half stake in the production-sharing agreement in the first five years of exploration. That drops to 25 percent for any commercial developments in a subsequent 25-year production period.
Late last year, Verenex said an independent assessment of gross contingent oil and gas resources identified as much as 2.15 billion barrels.
It last announced a discovery in Area 47, its 10th, in January. The well flowed at a test rate of 1,315 barrels of oil and 16.2 million cubic feet of gas a day.
CNPC’s interest in acquiring the stake follows a C$2.1 billion takeover of Canada’s Tanganyika Oil Co by another Chinese oil producer, Sinopec, last year. That secured heavy oil producing assets in Syria.
China’s big state-owned energy companies have spent years hunting for deals to satisfy growing oil demand back home, scooping up assets in Africa, the Middle East, South America and Canada.
Verenex said its committee of independent directors has recommended shareholders accept the CNPC bid.
The agreement requires two-thirds of Verenex shareholder accept it. It includes a break fee of C$15 million should the deal fall through.
$1=$1.24 Canadian Reporting by Jeffrey Jones in Calgary and R. Manikandan in Bangalore; Editing by Vikram S Subhedar and Peter Galloway