Nigerian Oil Regulator 'optimistic' on Exxon Asset Sale to Seplat

Illustration only - A drilling rig in Nigeria - Credit: Lemeonna/AdobeStock
Illustration only - A drilling rig in Nigeria - Credit: Lemeonna/AdobeStock

The head of Nigeria's oil regulator said he is "very optimistic" that oil major Exxon Mobil's asset sale to Seplat Energy can move forward, he told Reuters on Wednesday.

The regulator last year refused to approve the $1.28 billion sale, which some in the industry say is key to getting much-needed investment into Nigeria's oil and gas sector. 

"We are very optimistic that parties to the transaction will go back, look at the position of the regulator and come back by abiding by the provisions of Nigerian laws and the right thing will be done," Gbenga Komolafe, chief executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), told Reuters on the sidelines of an African energy conference. 

Komolafe said that Exxon "did not route the transaction" in line with the provisions of its joint operating agreement, but said that once Exxon had made proper agreements with its joint-venture partners in the assets, "the regulator will do what it needs to."

State oil company NNPC had also opposed the sale, arguing it had pre-emptive rights to the assets. NNPC has not publicly commented on whether it made an offer to buy the assets. 

Nigeria, Africa's largest oil exporter, relies on petroleum for 90% of its foreign exchange, and half its budget. But production has declined in recent years due to years of underinvestment and theft. Several international oil majors are looking to sell onshore assets, but those deals have run into legal and regulatory hurdles. 

Last month, NNPC said a subsidiary of Italy's Eni did not obtain its consent prior to announcing a deal to sell onshore oil assets to local company Oando, a failure that it said could have breached terms of a joint operating agreement.

(Reuters - Reporting by Wendell Roelf, writing by Libby George, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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