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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 19:03 GMT
ENI bid speculation mounts
Enterprise Oil rig
Speculation that Italian oil and gas company ENI wants to take over UK company Enterprise Oil continues to grow.

Executives from the Italian company met with investors in London on Tuesday.

"I declared only that Enterprise is a company interesting for ENI," chief executive Vittorio Mincato said, in response to queries about the world's sixth largest oil company's interest in Enterprise Oil.

ENI wants to raise its oil, gas and electricity output over the next four years, to allow it to compete with the world's biggest oil companies.

Last week, news emerged that Enterprise Oil, had turned down a takeover approach, probably from the acquisitive Italian energy giant ENI, industry sources said.

"We are interested in companies that might bring more added value to ENI," ENI executive Stefano Cao said on Tuesday.

But Enterprise Oil - one of the UK's few remaining independent oil firms - has previously seemed determined to avoid the consolidation which has swept through the rest of the industry.

Last week, Enterprise Oil has said that it had "recently received an unsolicited approach from a third party regarding a possible offer for the company, which has been rejected."

It gave no further details of the approach and did not name the bidder.

Several potential bidders

Analysts say the depressed share prices seen in recent months have made it cheaper for oil companies to expand through takeovers rather than organic expansion.

And there appear to be several potential bidders for Enterprise.

ENI, which bought Lasmo in 2000 for 2.7bn, and partners Enterprise Oil in Italy, may be the winner.

But other names mentioned as possible suitors have included the Canadian firm Talisman Energy and the US -based firms Amerada Hess and Conoco.

Enterprise Oil was founded from the main oil assets of British Gas - the former state-owned UK gas supplier which was privatised in 1983.

The group operates fields in the UK, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Italy and the Gulf of Mexico.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Duncan Bartlett
"There is a lot of sense in ENI owning Enterprise Oil"
See also:

04 Jan 02 | Business
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31 Dec 01 | Business
Tide turns against the oil firms
28 Dec 01 | Business
Opec cuts exports to boost prices
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