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France's Maurel & Prom confirms takeover contacts

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

PARIS (Reuters) - French oil producer Maurel et Prom <MAUP.PA> has had contacts about a possible takeover of the company, its chief executive said, without naming any potential buyers.

The comment comes after the mid-sized company dismissed media speculation in June that Anglo-Dutch oil group Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L> had approached it about a possible takeover.

"There have been contacts, there are contacts, and there will be contacts," Chief Executive Jean-Francois Henin told a conference call with analysts. He did not elaborate.

A spokeswoman at Shell in France was not immediately available for comment.

Maurel & Prom shares, which had slipped more than 3 percent in morning trade on Thursday due to lower than expected profit results, pared losses after Henin's comments and stood 2.4 percent lower at 13.8 euros by 2.30 p.m. British Time.

The stock has risen by more than a third since the takeover report in the British press in June.

Maurel et Prom has regularly been subject to takeover talk, fanned by the spin-off of its Nigerian assets into Maurel & Prom Nigeria <MPNG.PA> in 2011. The company has oil assets in Colombia, Gabon, Tanzania and Mozambique.

Henin, who holds a 24 percent stake in the group, will turn 70 next year, reaching the group's age limit for an executive mandate and making a sale more likely as no heir has been designated, Natixis oil analyst Julient Laurent said.

"It's his baby; he launched the group in the oil industry," Laurent said. "He has personal investment projects, in biofuel and things like that, and he still has Maurel et Prom Nigeria."

State-run Oil India <OILI.NS> said in May last year it was interested in buying a stake in Maurel's assets in Gabon, adding it could pay as much as $1.5 billion (988.4 million pounds) for those assets.

"Apparently the Indians have administrative issues. These are big national companies and it can become political so it drags on," Laurent said. Chinese companies like Sinopec <600688.SS> were also seen as potential buyers of the Gabon assets, Laurent said, adding that a Chinese option remained unpopular with Gabonese authorities.

"Shell would mostly be interested in their East Africa assets, Tanzania, and Mozambique, these are areas that could make sense," he added.

The company, which has a market value of about 1.7 billion euros, posted a 65 percent fall in 2012 net profit to 58 million euros (48 million pounds) and a 22 percent decline in operating profit to 201 million euros earlier on Thursday, lagging analysts' average expectations.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Gus Trompiz and Clelia Oziel)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130328/frances-maurel-prom-confirms-takeover-contacts