Australia’s Senex Energy Said to Propose Acquisition of AWE

Senex Energy Ltd., an Australian oil explorer, has made a preliminary offer to acquire AWE Ltd. to gain a stake in shale fields in Western Australia and an Indonesian oil project, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The talks are still at an early stage and the structure of a potential transaction has yet to be agreed, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. AWE shares were halted from trading today after the company said it received a non-binding merger proposal from a party it didn’t identify.

Acquiring AWE would give Brisbane-based Senex control of shale gas prospects in the Perth Basin of Western Australia and an Indonesian project that has about 101 million barrels of recoverable oil. Senex is focused on oil and gas in central Australia’s Cooper Basin and coal-bed methane on the east coast.

Talks between Senex and AWE were reported earlier today in the Australian Financial Review’s Street Talk column. Senex is seeking a deal to combine with AWE, the newspaper said, citing sources it didn’t name.

Matthew Sullivan, AWE’s Sydney-based investor relations manager, declined to comment. Andrew Barber, Senex’s Brisbane-based spokesman, didn’t return two calls seeking comment.

Shares of AWE have fallen 2.5 percent this year, giving it a market value of A$619 million ($552 million). The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index has risen 9.7 percent over the period.

A buyer of AWE would also benefit from rising gas prices on the east coast of Australia, where the company is partnering with Origin Energy Ltd. on the BassGas project, Nik Burns, a Melbourne-based analyst at UBS AG, said today by phone.

AWE last month completed the sale of a 50 percent stake in its Indonesian oil project, including the Ande Ande Lumut development, to Santos Ltd. for $188 million. In May, it boosted its estimate for the Indonesia project’s recoverable oil by 33 percent to 101 million barrels.

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