Lasmo sale nets Enterprise Oil pounds 7.2m

MARY FAGAN

Industrial Correspondent

Enterprise Oil sold its 9.8 per cent stake in Lasmo for pounds 166.4m compared with pounds 159.2m paid for the shares in June last year, realising a profit of pounds 7.2m. The sale comes just over a year after the collapse of the pounds 1.6bn Enterprise bid for the rival exploration and production firm.

The 94.6 million shares were widely placed by SBC Warburg and Cazenove at a price of 176p per share, compared with the average 168.3p paid in June last year during the closing stages of the bid. Shares in Lasmo fell by 2p yesterday to close at 182p.

In September, Enterprise was forced to make a provision in its interim accounts of pounds 18.1m to reflect the fall in Lasmo's share price at that time to about 150p. The 1995/96 profits will be boosted by about pounds 25m as a result of the sale.

One City analyst said that the profit on the placing would at least pay for the cost of the debt taken on to buy the stake. Analysts were also speculating whether the group is now back on the acquisition trail to replace its declining production portfolio.

Enterprise has said that is it not interested in a hostile bid after the Lasmo fiasco but has not ruled out an agreed acquisition. There is some speculation that it could act as a white knight in the pounds 160m hostile by for Aran Energy, the Irish oil company, by Arco of the US. Aran has interests in the Scheihallion field West of Shetland - an oil and gas region now regarded as potentially the most exciting for UK.

A spokesman for Enterprise said yesterday: "The proceeds of the sale will be used for general corporate purposes including the group's exploration and development programme which this year is expected to exceed pounds 320m." He said that the timing of the disposal was dictated by the fact that "Lasmo's shares have been firm of late".

Lasmo welcome the sale, which has been anticipated. A spokesman said: "We see this as a very positive sign that shareholders are supportive of us. We understand the whole thing happened within minutes."

The takeover battle cost Enterprise almost pounds 6m in fees for advisors. But the bill for Lasmo was about pounds 24m, made up largely from success fees.

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