Rockhopper Exploration has sold its 18.3pc stake in Ireland-based United Oil & Gas for $4m (€3.4m).

The deal announced tonight concludes United’s reverse takeover earlier this year of Rockhopper’s Egyptian subsidiary and its operations in the Abu Sennan oil field for $15.5m (€13m).

Rockhopper effectively underwrote that deal by accepting as partial payment more than 114 million new shares in United Oil. It originally was not supposed to sell those shares for 12 months.

However, both firms announced in post-trading statements tonight that those shares have been sold in their entirety to a mix of institutional and private investors for 2.66 pence (€0.03) each, following an investor roadshow to drum up interest. That is at a 6.7pc discount to United’s closing share price.

Rockhopper said this meant its original $11.9m investment to acquire Egyptian oil assets four years ago has produced a pay-out of $15.5m.

That is about $500,000 less than Rockhopper’s expected gain from the Egyptian sale when it was announced in February. At that time, United paid Rockhopper $11.5m in cash and issued the 114.5 million shares with a stated value of $4.5m.

But given the battering in value that many oil assets since have experienced during the Covid-19 crisis, both sides expressed relief that Rockhopper had been able to cash in its shareholding so quickly and at close to the original valuation.

“We are delighted to have attracted such strong support from institutional and private investors at a time of relative uncertainty within our sector,” said United chief executive Brian Larkin, a former executive at Tullow Oil.

Mr Larkin said the placing of Rockhopper’s shares was oversubscribed and “strengthens the company’s shareholder base considerably”.

He thanked Rockhopper executives “for the important role they played in facilitating our transformational acquisition of Rockhopper Egypt. They have been an excellent partner and enabled United to achieve this orderly transition.”

Rockhopper is focused on exploiting South Atlantic oil fields in Falkland Islands waters.

“The monetisation of our entire shareholding in United after a short holding period of under six months strengthens our balance sheet at a particularly challenging time for the sector,” said Rockhopper chief executive Sam Moody.

Rockhopper’s representative on the United board, Stewart MacDonald, has stepped down as part of the shares sale.

 

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