Ghana Is Said to Favor Forecourt Operator as Exxon Partner

(Bloomberg) -- Ghana sees the country’s state-owned gas-station operator as the leading bidder to partner Exxon Mobil Corp. to explore for crude at an offshore field, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Exxon was awarded exploration and production rights for the Deepwater Cape Three Points block in January and must choose a local partner for a 5 percent stake before the permit will be ratified by parliament.

While Irving, Texas-based Exxon has the prerogative to award the holding, Ghana’s petroleum sector regulator and the Energy Ministry view Ghana Oil Co. as the most appropriate candidate because it can access capital through the state-owned money manager, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

SSNIT owns a 25 percent stake in Goil, as the forecourt operator is known, according to data collected by Bloomberg. The money manager has 9.9 billion cedis ($2.2 billion) in assets under management, Chief Executive Officer Hayford Atta Krufi said in September. Ghana Stock Exchange-listed Goil has a market value of 1.7 billion cedis and the government holds a 34 percent direct stake in the company.

Exploration Expansion

“Following an extensive evaluation process, Exxon Mobil is in the process of finalizing its selection of a local Ghanaian company with the government,” company spokeswoman Suann Guthrie said by email, declining to comment further.

The final decision on a suitable local partner will rest with Exxon, Minister of Energy Boakye Agyarko said by phone. Goil wants to expand into oil exploration and has the resources to partner other companies, spokesman Robert Kyere said in an emailed response to questions, declining to confirm whether the company made a bid.

“If Goil comes to us with a decision to partner an oil exploration company, SSNIT will subject that to our rigorous investment processes,” Afua Sarkodie, a spokesman for the money manager, said in an emailed response to questions.

Exxon wants to start exploration this year as the nation is raising output from offshore oil and gas fields operated by Tullow Oil Plc and Eni SpA. The country has a 15 percent carried interest in the block through the state-owned oil producer, Ghana National Petroleum Corp., with Exxon to hold the remaining 80 percent after the selection of a local partner.

Ghana will award another six blocks off its west coast for oil exploration this year, Agyarko said May 16.

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