Exclusive: Heritage In £600m Nigeria Swoop
The FTSE 250 resources group Heritage Oil is poised to seal a £600m swoop on a Nigerian oilfield that would almost treble the size of the company, I have learnt.
Heritage, run by Tony Buckingham, its buccaneering chief executive, could announce the deal to buy the asset as soon as next week. Talks about the transaction are continuing this weekend although people close to the situation cautioned that it could yet be derailed. City investors will be watching for news of how Heritage intends to fund the deal, given that it had a market value at the close of trading yesterday of just £313m (about a fifth of what it was worth just a few years ago). Mr Buckingham, who owns one-third of the company, is understood to have sounded other investors out about a fundraising through a rights issue or share placing and the details of that are likely to be unveiled alongside an announcement about the takeover.
Earlier this month, Heritage became the latest in a string of London-listed companies to suffer a pay revolt at its annual meeting, with about half of shareholders opposing its remuneration report in protest at Buckingham's two-year notice period.
A former mercenary, Buckingham is one of the resources industry's most colourful individuals and among Britain's richest men. His company was at the centre of the City watchdog's highest-profile sanction against a London-based banker earlier this year when it fined Ian Hannam of JP Morgan Cazenove for disclosing inside information about Heritage (a judgement that Hannam is appealing against and many in the City think was unjust). Heritage, which has discovered a mammoth gas-field in Kurdistan and also operates assets in Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, declined to comment.