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Outlook: Monument deal

ANOTHER two oil companies announced their betrothal yesterday. One of them is Lasmo but the other isn't Enterprise Oil. Having spent four months working on the pre-nuptial agreement, Lasmo sensibly decided that it would end like Fatal Attraction. Now it has realised that it was actually in love all along with the girl next door.

Monument Oil & Gas has fallen on hard times of late, as the demise of the director's long-term incentive plan bears out all too painfully. But the gal has some damn fine assets and what's more, Lasmo has discovered that they have lots in common - like stakes in Liverpool Bay and an interest in the Caspian Sea and Pakistan.

Joe Darby may not be everyone's idea of the most eligible bachelor in the oil sector, but he is a safe and sensible type who will make sure the marriage couple do not overstretch themselves financially.

Lasmo has been giving Monument the glad eye for years now and with the swarthy Latin lover Tim Eggar in charge, it was given plenty of encouragement. Indeed, the sequence of events might suggest that some two-timing was going on. It was only a week, after Monument finally lifted its skirts, that Joe told Enterprise their engagement was not to be. The very next day he was on the phone to fix a candlelit supper.

With 30 per cent of Monument's shares irrevocably committed to Lasmo, there isn't much danger of a rival suitor coming between the happy couple. This is hardly the stuff of BP and Amoco, but as oil industry mergers go, it seems to make reasonable sense and carries none of the difficult emotional baggage that a tie up with Enterprise would have entailed.

Mr Darby has paid a full price. But there aren't too many decent brides about. Enterprise must be thinking it will for ever remain a spinster.