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Cobalt Remains Committed to Angola After Minister’s Comments

Cobalt International Energy Inc., the offshore oil explorer backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., says it’s committed to developing oil prospects in Angola’s pre-salt basin after the government said it was free to leave.

“We are committed to continue working with Sonangol and our partners for the benefit of Angola, its people and our shareholders,” Michael Greenberg, a company spokesman based in Houston, said by telephone from Washington D.C.

Cobalt can exit Angola if its business there is tarnishing its reputation, Manuel Vicente, who moved in January from chairman of state oil company Sonangol EP to Minister of State and Economic Coordination, said today. The Houston-based company is under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department after saying in February there were “allegations of a connection” between local partner Nazaki Oil & Gas SA and “senior Angolan government officials.”

The Angolan government approved the contracts with Cobalt for helping develop two offshore blocks, Vicente told reporters in Luanda.

“Cobalt is an American company and is subject to U.S. laws,” Vicente said. “If Cobalt thinks that its presence in Angola harms its performance and image, it has an option to exit Angola.”

Test Results

Greenberg declined to comment on allegations in the Financial Times newspaper April 15 that Vicente and Angolan General Manuel Helder Vieira Dias Jr. are shareholders in Nazaki. The connection could raise questions about compliance with U.S. anti-bribery law, the newspaper said.

Cobalt’s value surged by a third Feb. 10 after it reported test results from the Cameia-1 well showed a “high-quality” oil reservoir that may have the potential to produce more than 20,000 barrels a day.

“Cobalt is proud of our business in Angola and our industry-leading role in the discovery of a potentially significant new petroleum province,” Greenberg said.

Energy companies such as BP Plc, ConocoPhillips and Total SA are exploring below a layer of salt more than two miles beneath the seabed off Africa’s coast. That follows success off Brazil on the South American side of the Atlantic in finding some of the largest fields of the last decade under the same mineral.

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