Kuwait Energy eyes London listing with Soco merger talks

January 9, 2018

Kuwait Energy may be on the brink of reviving its bid to list on the London Stock Exchange by merging with UK-based oil company Soco International.

Soco confirmed that it is in talks to merge with Kuwait Energy in a deal which would finally give the Middle Eastern group a foothold in the UK market after repeatedly failing to take the company public.

Soco said the pair are in preliminary talks over a “merger of equals” but cautioned that there can be no certainty that an agreement will be reached.

Shares in the £400m company bounced over 10pc as the merger talks with the Kuwaiti business were revealed.

If the deal moved ahead it would broaden the geographic reach of the combined group and bolster its strength in the face of ongoing oil market jitters.

Soco holds mature oil and gas assets in Vietnam, Congo and Angola with no interests to the low-cost fields in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Kuwait Energy operates assets in Iraq, Oman, Egypt and Yemen which produce growing volumes but are exposed to geopolitical risk which has scuppered its past plans to go public.

Kuwait Energy’s most recent hopes of joining the FTSE 250 were dashed last summer as market jitters caused the group to abandon the plans for a float which was expected to value it at £1bn.

The group had previously indicated its interest in listing on the London market, in what would prove a key test of investor appetite in Middle Eastern companies. But its previous efforts were blighted by the Arab Spring uprisings in 2010 and the oil market crash in 2014.

In June last year Manssour Aboukhamseen, Kuwait Energy’s chairman, said its plans to list in London were once again on the backburner, just two months after resurrecting the IPO bid.

Since then the group has undertaken a major corporate reshuffle which included the resignation of Sara Akbar, its long-standing chief executive and co-founder. At the same time the group appointed six new directors to the board.

Kuwait Energy said its new board is committed to serving the best interest of all its stakeholders and would only pursue a deal that it considers 'optimal' for its shareholders