White Nile chiefs fly out to Africa

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The Independent Online

The directors of White Nile are flying to East Africa this weekend to finalise a plan for their controversial oil exploration company in an attempt to get the suspension of its shares lifted.

The directors of White Nile are flying to East Africa this weekend to finalise a plan for their controversial oil exploration company in an attempt to get the suspension of its shares lifted.

The company, controlled by the former England cricketer, Phil Edmonds, has done an oil deal with the government-in-waiting in South Sudan, but the London Stock Exchange is demanding a detailed prospectus is published before the company's shares are readmitted to trading on AIM.

The company's shares were suspended in February after soaring more than 1,000 per cent in less than a week.

Mr Edmonds, with his fellow executive Andrew Groves, will fly to Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya on Saturday to conclude a "contractor's licence" deal with the South Sudanese leadership council. The licence will set out what will be spent on exploration, the contractors who will be used and the system for training local people in the oil-rich region. It will form the basis of an announcement to the Stock Exchange.

The pair is touring investors with Costello Garang Ring, the minister in charge of attracting foreign investment to rebuild the war-torn region. The South Sudanese government is being set up as part of a ceasefire agreement with the authorities in the capital Khartoum.

The LSE has treated White Nile's deal as a de facto reverse takeover, triggering more stringent rules on the disclosure of information. The company is buying a 60 per cent interest in an oil exploration block in the south from the new government's state-owned oil company, Nile Petroleum, which will emerge with a 50 per cent stake in White Nile.

Plans allowing White Nile to also buy the remaining 40 per cent interest in the block push Nile Petroleum's potential interest to 70 per cent. Mr Garang Ring said: "White Nile is our company. We have 50 per cent of White Nile so it is [in effect] a company of the South Sudan government."

In a further complication, Total, the French oil giant, claims it has rights over the same block in an agreement with Khartoum in the Eighties and renewed last year.

Suspension countdown

10 February: White Nile floats on AIM. Says it is in negotiations with the new government of South Sudan to secure oil concessions.

16 February: Shares suspended, having soared 1,285 per cent to 138.5p. Claims deal to acquire a 60 per cent interest in a large oil field.

18 February: White Nile promises details of deal within a week.

4 April: White Nile says it continues to work on the deal and circular

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