Nigeria’s state energy company won a court decision temporarily blocking Exxon Mobil Corp. from selling assets in the country to Seplat Energy Plc.
A judge in the capital, Abuja, granted the Nigerian National Petroleum Co. an “order of interim injunction” on July 6 barring Exxon “from completing any divestment” in a unit that ultimately operates four licenses in the West African nation, Seplat said in a statement Monday. The Lagos-based producer agreed to acquire the US oil major’s subsidiary for at least $1.28 billion in February.
The NNPC wishes to block the transaction and to take over the permits itself. The state-run company sued Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited on July 5, asking the State High Court either to order that a dispute had occurred between the parties over preemption rights, or to order them to take the matter to arbitration, according to Seplat’s statement.
Seplat, which is not party to the lawsuit, said its deal with Exxon is “still valid” and the company “remains confident that the matter will be brought to a proper conclusion in accordance with the law.” A spokeswoman for Exxon declined to comment, while a spokesman for the NNPC didn’t respond to a phone call and text message.
The acquisition would give Seplat additional production of about 95,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day from shallow-water assets that Exxon operates in a joint venture with the NNPC. For more than a decade, international oil companies active in Nigeria have been offloading large parts of their portfolio in the country to domestic players, a trend that has recently accelerated.
An order from a Nigerian court has also forced Shell Plc to pause its plans to sell all of its remaining onshore permits in the country.