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 DNO could be London-bound after Kurdish oil row

 Source :  The Times - UK 
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DNO could be London-bound after Kurdish oil row  30.9.2009 
By Robin Pagnamenta: Energy Editor

September 30, 2009

OSLO, Norway,— DNO, the Norwegian oil explorer, is considering moving its listing to London after a row with the Oslo Stock Exchange over the release of information that has damaged its business in Iraqi Kurdistan region.

Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) last week suspended DNO’s activities in the semi-autonomous province for six weeks and threatened to expel it permanently after the Oslo exchange published details of a $30 million 2008 share deal between the KRG and DNO.

DNO’s share price fell by 50 per cent the day after the announcement, which the KRG said had caused “unjustifiable and incalculable” damage to its reputation.

Helge Eide, chief executive of DNO, which has threatened to sue the Oslo exchange, told The Times that it was accelerating plans for a new listing, with London the “most likely alternative... We are looking at a number of options at the moment and London is quite an obvious alternative ... although we have not yet taken a final decision.”

DNO’s market value stood at NKr4.23 billion yesterday, equivalent to £458 million, although immediately before the dispute it had been closer to £700 million. Mr Helge said that DNO might close its Oslo listing or consider a dual listing.

The dispute centres on a Norwegian regulatory investigation into the sale of 5 per cent, or 44 million shares, of DNO last October. The stake subsequently was bought by Genel Energy,
www.ekurd.neta Turkish company that is in the process of merging with Heritage Oil, a London-listed oil business active in Kurdish Iraq.

Norwegian press reports have claimed that Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdish Natural Resources Minister, had acted as a middleman in the deal and that he personally or the KRG may have benefited from it financially.

DNO and the KRG claim that the Oslo exchange acted unlawfully by publishing confidential information. The exchange argues that it was obliged to release the details under Norwegian law.

The dispute has highlighted the political risks of doing business in Iraq, although yesterday there were fresh signs that the impasse might be easing. Mr Eide said that a meeting in Oslo on Monday between officials from the KRG and the Oslo Stock Exchange had been “positive”. He said: “We hope to resolve this as quickly as possible and are working for a positive solution.”

DNO has been working hard to overturn the suspension, which includes a ban on its existing Iraqi oil exports of 45,000 barrels per day from the Tawke oilfield.

UK-listed companies already operating in the region, including Heritage Oil, stand to gain if DNO is expelled by the KRG permanently, analysts said.

The KRG has said that it bought the DNO shares on behalf of Genel to support both companies at a time when financing was difficult and they were not allowed to export oil from Iraq.

This year DNO became the first foreign oil producer to be granted an export licence from Iraq. It started shipments in June.

In 2004, it was the first foreign oil producer to be granted an oil drilling licence by the authorities in Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. It also has interests in oilfields in the North Sea, Yemen, East and West Africa.

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