Exoma Says Cnooc Parent May Join in More Exploration Blocks

Exoma Energy Ltd. (EXE), an oil and gas explorer with shale prospects in Australia’s Queensland state, said partner China National Offshore Oil Corp. is interested in collaborating on future drilling operations.

Exoma has bid for four blocks next to its holdings in central Queensland, Chief Executive Officer Rob Crook said in a telephone interview yesterday. The state’s government may announce the awards by April, he said.

“They have the opportunity to participate in the new blocks,” said Crook, whose Brisbane-based company dropped 23 percent in the last 12 months. “We work closely with their professionals and management here and in Beijing and I can see that level of closeness increasing.”

Exoma, which is exploring for conventional oil, shale and coal-seam gas, completed an accord last year to sell Cnooc Ltd. (883)’s parent 50 percent of its permits for A$50 million ($54 million). The Australian explorer plans to hire an investment bank this quarter to ensure it is “well positioned to handle future growth and advise the company on appropriate corporate strategies in light of the growing interest in Exoma’s portfolio,” the company said yesterday in a statement.

“We’re starting to develop value in the shale resource we have, and we’re keen to make sure we’re properly advised in terms of financing decisions that we take on the way forward,” Crook said. “It’s not responding to any particular transaction we’re aware of, but it’s longer-range planning.”

Liu Xiaobiao, China National Offshore’s Beijing-based spokesman, didn’t answer seven calls to his mobile-phone seeking comment.

Exploration Permits

Exoma was unchanged at 18 Australian cents a share at the close of trade in Sydney, while the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 0.9 percent.

The explorer holds five permits in central Queensland covering about 6.6 million acres, according to its website. The company’s “long-term plan” is to gain enough reserves to support a liquefied natural gas project, Exoma says.

BG Group Plc (BG/), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Hess Corp. (HES) have agreed to fund shale exploration through ventures in Australia, which has an estimated 400 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale-gas resources, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates.

“If you look at Australia generally, there’s a high level of international interest, and we’re part of that mix,” said Crook, declining to say if any companies have approached Exoma.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Paton in Sydney at jpaton4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Amit Prakash at aprakash1@bloomberg.net

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