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Sonangal Says Cobalt Selections Followed Angola Law

Sonangol EP, Angola’s state-owned oil company, said its selection of Cobalt International Energy Inc. and other partners in offshore crude fields followed Angolan law.

Recent oil discoveries in Angola have attracted “parties interested in causing controversy where none exists,” Sonangol, based in Luanda, said in a statement today. Sonangol selected Cobalt and its partners “through processes which included an open and transparent lease sale for the deep-water pre-salt blocks.”

Cobalt, based in Houston, said in a Feb. 21 regulatory filing that it’s under investigation by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department for alleged connections between senior Angolan government officials and Nazaki Oil and Gaz SA, a partner in two offshore blocks.

“We’re confident we’ve done nothing wrong,” Lynne Hackedorn, a spokeswoman at Cobalt headquarters, said in a telephone interview today. “We’re completely working diligently with them.”

The Financial Times reported April 15 that former Sonangol chief Manuel Vicente and Angolan General Manuel Helder Vieira Dias Jr. confirmed they are Nazaki shareholders. The connections raise questions about the company’s compliance with anti-corruption laws, the London-based newspaper said.

“Sonangol’s announcement regarding the bid process is fully consistent with Cobalt’s understanding and experience in Angola,” Hackedorn said. “We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship for our shareholders, partners and the people of Angola.”

Seabed Drilling

Cobalt and Maersk Oil, a subsidiary of Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, are drilling for oil more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) beneath the seabed off the coast of Angola, Africa’s largest oil producer after Nigeria.

Cobalt, whose largest shareholders are Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Riverstone Holdings LLC, said on Feb. 10 that test results from the Cameia-1 well in Angola showed a “high-quality” oil reservoir that may have the potential to produce more than 20,000 barrels a day. The company plans to release results on the Cameia-2 well within the next 30 to 60 days, Hackedorn said.

Maersk Oil said in January its Azul-1 well might produce more than 3,000 barrels a day.

Joao Rosa Santos, a Luanda-based spokesman for Sonangol, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment because he’s traveling, said a colleague who declined to be identified according to company practice.

Cobalt rose 0.9 percent to $21.87 at the close in New York. The shares have gained 41 percent this year.

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