Lasmo plans defence

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The Independent Online
LASMO, the oil explorer facing a hostile pounds 1.4bn takeover from Enterprise Oil, is planning to defend itself by throwing the spotlight on its rival's track record over the past five years.

The company's advisers - Goldman Sachs, Natwest Securities and Schroder - are understood to have decided the main planks of the defence strategy even though the bidder's offer document is not expected to be sent to shareholders until Tuesday.

The defending camp has identified Elf Enterprise, the North Sea venture owned jointly with the French Elf group, as a possible Achilles' heel. It is expected to question its performance and focus on how Enterprise accounts for it. One aim is to establish whether the venture has a negative asset value.

Lasmo, headed by Rudolph Agnew, whose appointment as chairman was brought forward last week, is also expected to spearhead an attack on Enterprise's dividend cover, using US accounting policies, cash-flow and exploration records over the past five years. Lasmo's tactics could also aim to highlight differences between the two companies' future strategies. 'Their strategy is to get big, and Lasmo wants to be focused,' a source said.

It is understood that Lasmo has already received informal approaches from several possible suitors keen to act as white knights. But the feelers have been rebuffed for now. Possible predators are US oil companies ants Arco and Mobil, and PowerGen, the generator.

Meanwhile, Swiss Bank is attempting to elbow its way into the bidding camp with proposals aimed at bolstering Enterprise's firepower. But the pitch is thought to have been rejected by Enterprise, which is headed by Graham Hearne and advised by SG Warburg, Robert Fleming, James Capel and Lehman Brothers.

Patrick Hosking, page 2

Oil firms in firing line, page 6

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