Total May Buy Wessex for Assets in French Guiana, Africa

Total SA (FP) may offer $113 million in cash for Wessex Exploration Plc (WSX), the owner of a minority stake in licenses off French Guiana that hold more than a billion barrels of oil.

Total said today it approached Wessex at 10 pence a share, compared with a closing price of 7.35 pence on March 16. The board of directors of Wessex, which holds an effective 1.25 percent interest in the Guyane Maritime license, would recommend such an offer in the absence of a higher bid. Wessex shares jumped 29 percent to 9.5 pence in London.

Tullow Oil Plc (TLW), the operator of the Zaedyus wells that unlocked a new oil frontier off the northeast coast of South America, is targeting about 1.4 billion barrels of resources in three wells off French Guiana. The Zaedyus-1 well, completed last year, found light and heavy oil. Tullow last week increased its reserves estimate for the field to 840 million barrels of oil equivalent from 700 million.

Wessex also holds 70 percent of the Juan de Nova Est permit in the Mozambique Channel off the island of Madagascar, as well as acreage in the U.K. and northwest Africa.

French Guiana is an overseas region of France with a population of about 230,000. Tullow has a 27.5 percent stake in the Guyane Maritime license, Royal Dutch Shell Plc has 45 percent, Total 25 percent and Northpet 2.5 percent. Wessex and Northern Petroleum Plc (NOP) each own half of Northpet.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Swint in London at bswint@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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