Imperial advisers hit the phones to get £1.2bn bid approved

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Advisers to the FTSE 250-listed Imperial Energy have targeted 60 -to 65 key shareholders to push through its £1.2bn sale to India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) before the new year.

A market source said that these fund managers hold more than 90 per cent of the oil and gas explorer, so their approval of a deal would be sufficient for it to go through. Merrill Lynch and RBS Hoare Govett, Imperial's advisers, will "hit the telephones hard" next week to ensure acceptances come through by the 30 December offer deadline.

ONGC, which made the offer through subsidiary Jarpeno in August, has been criticised for potentially overpaying as oil prices have subsequently slumped by around $100 since their mid-July peak.

ONGC had sought to decrease the offer, but British regulators forbade the move. Imperial is keen to gain the 90 per cent shareholder approval now, as failure to do so would mean that ONGC is not obliged to extend its offer. As a result, the Indian com-pany could return at a later date with a lower bid.

The offer was at a 62 per cent premium to the share price the day before the August bid and would increase ONGC's oil reserves by 20 per cent.