Nigeria’s leading energy supplier and Lagos and London-listed company, Seplat is hoping that President Bola Tinubu, the new leader of Africa’s largest crude producer, will adopt a different approach than his predecessor, who reversed an initial decision to approve the transaction.
“We’re still interested in the assets,” Seplat Chief Executive Officer Roger Brown said in an interview at the firm’s UK offices. “We still like the company we’re buying. We think it’s a game changing operation.”
Under the deal unveiled in February 2022, Seplat agreed to pay $1.3 billion for an Exxon unit that holds a 40% operating stake in four shallow-water licenses in a purchase that would almost quadruple the independent company’s oil output to more than 130,000 barrels per day. If the transaction goes ahead, it will be one of the biggest divestments in Nigerian history since energy majors like Shell Plc started offloading unwanted assets in the late 2000s.
Former President Muhammadu Buhari, who doubled as Nigeria’s oil minister, endorsed the sale in August before swiftly rowing back after the country’s energy regulator rejected his approval. Days before Buhari stepped down last month, Seplat announced it had extended the agreement with Exxon to allow more time to finalize the transaction.
State-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Co. — which owns 60% of the permits — has opposed the sale and sued Exxon in the capital, Abuja, claiming it has the right to acquire the blocks itself from the US major.
The Seplat boss disagrees with the NNPC because his firm is purchasing a subsidiary rather than licenses. “What we are buying are shares sold by US companies, so that is a completely different animal because we’re buying a company,” he said. “Exxon’s read of the situation is the same.”
A spokeswoman for Exxon declined to comment on the transaction, citing a court injunction and arbitration proceedings. Spokesmen for Tinubu didn’t respond to questions from Bloomberg News.