There is a lot of talk that UK-based Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd. (GKP)—a Kurdistan exploration darling—is ripe for takeover, even more so now that it has won against forces who sought a $1.6 billion stake in the company’s oilfields in northern Iraq.
Earlier this week, a London court ruled in favor of Gulf Keystone, paving the way for the company’s stocks to start performing as well as its competitors in Kurdistan. There’s nothing to hold it back now.
It was Excalibur Ventures LLC and former US Special Forces captain Rex Wempen who brought the lawsuit against Gulf Keystone, claiming that he was promised a 30% share worth $1.6 billion for setting up the deal.
The lawsuit had some traction because Wempen isn’t just a former Special Forces elite who was in the right place at the right time to help Gulf Keystone get connected in Kurdistan; he is also a founding member of the US-Kurdistan Business Council.
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Gulf Keystone’s argument—upheld by the court in London—was that Wempen and Excalibur couldn’t meet their end of obligations in the deal to sustain a 30% share. More specifically, Excalibur didn’t have necessary financial resources to help with exploration. As such, the judge ruled that Wempen’s claim on Gulf Keystone’s big find in 2009 was not valid.
Now that Gulf Keystone has this lawsuit out the way—after a six-month trial that closed in March--analysts expect promising results for its stocks.
Now is an exciting time for producers in Kurdistan, which is about to put a new pipeline online running directly to Turkey, bypassing the Iraqi central authorities in Baghdad and pumping for oil and gas independence.
Gulf Keystone is targeting a production level of 400,000 barrels a day by 2018 from its Shaikan oilfields. And even though it’s got a great play here and the future looks bright, this lawsuit has kept its stocks from performing like they should have.
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While Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy Plc—the largest producer in Kurdistan—has seen its stocks jump more than 20% this year on hopes for more production and easier transport to markets, Gulf Keystone has seen only a 7% rise.
For now, Gulf Keystone has already spent $780 million in Kurdistan, and it expects to start production soon at about 40,000 bpd for this year, which will enable it to continue developing its fields.
What potential buyers are looking at is how Gulf Keystone will monetize the giant Shaikan oilfield where sour crude isn’t yet of export quality and billions in capital are still needed to make this happen.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com