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Maurel & Prom Surges on Plan for Nigerian Oil Unit Listing

Etablissements Maurel & Prom SA, a French oil explorer, surged after announcing a plan to spin off a Nigerian unit that acquired production licenses from Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

The distribution to Maurel stockholders of shares in the Nigerian business and a separate listing will “better bring out the value” of the assets, the Paris-based company said in a statement. The value of the unit is “not fully reflected in the group stock price.”

Maurel rose as much as 6.5 percent and was trading 50 cents higher at 14.56 euros at 4:16 p.m. in Paris. The stock has jumped 38 percent since the start of the year.

Maurel, which is 24 percent owned by Chief Executive Officer Jean-Francois Henin, last year bought a 45 percent stake in Seplat Petroleum Development Co. in Nigeria for $193 million. Seplat acquired production licenses with a capacity of 50,000 barrels of oil a day from Shell.

“The potential listing of the Nigerian unit is a very strong catalyst,” Bertrand Hodee, analyst at Kepler Research who has a “buy” rating on the stock, wrote in a research note today. Maurel is being “groomed for sale,” according to Hodee.

A board meeting no later than May 24 will decide how to attribute shares in the Nigerian business as a special dividend, Maurel said in the statement today.

The company last month reported 2010 losses widened and pledged to raise output from Gabon, Nigeria and Colombia. The explorer, which started in 1813 as a trading company between Bordeaux and French colonies in West Africa, has struggled to raise oil production since selling Congolese fields to Eni SpA in 2007.

Henin told reporters last month he has failed to attract a reasonable offer for the company, which has also tried to list in London. The oil company enlisted Citigroup Inc. and BNP Paribas about a year ago to search for partners for exploration permits held by the company, he said.

In its full-year earnings report, output was pegged at 14,618 barrels a day from Gabon and 3,570 barrels a day from Nigerian fields. The company will change strategy to spend less on exploration and more on developing reserves and raising output, Henin said.

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