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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 13:31 GMT
Eni mulls 'fair' price for Enterprise Oil
Enterprise Oil rig
Enterprise has long been rumoured to be looking for a suitor
The head of Italian oil and gas group Eni has said the company would pay a small premium to buy Britain's Enterprise Oil, but added he is not interested in a hostile takeover.

"The current price plus a small premium would be the right value," chief executive Vittorio Mincato told the Wall Street Journal Europe.

It is not useful to negotiate with a management which has said it is not interested in seeking buyers

Vittorio Mincato
Enterprise shares, which shot up about 35% in January on bid speculation, were barely changed on Monday morning at about 620p.

Analyst expect a bid by Eni would value the company at about 3.86bn, including the group's 840m debt.

Mr Mincato said Enterprise's management may ask for 700p a share "but that's not the right price and I'm not ready to pay it".

Eni, the world's sixth largest energy company, declined to say whether it has made an offer after the interview was published but it confirmed that Enterprise was on a short list of bid targets.

Acquisition trail

Enterprise rejected a takeover bid in January, which was rumoured to have been from Eni.

"It is not useful to negotiate with a management which has said it is not interested in seeking buyers," said Mr Mincato, adding he was not interested in a hostile bid and would not pay a large premium.

If Enterprise receives a higher offer, "I will call (chairman Graham Ahearne) to congratulate him," Mr Mincato said.

Since 1999, Eni has bought two other independent UK oil companies - British-Borneo and Lasmo - and has said it has more cash to spend on acquisitions.

Mr Mincato's three-year term as chief executive expires at end-May.

Fred Kempe, Wall Street Journal Europe
"Eni... is the world's sixth largest publicly traded company"
See also:

15 Jan 02 | Business
ENI bid speculation mounts
09 Jan 02 | Business
Enterprise Oil rejects bid approach
21 Dec 00 | Business
Eni swoops on Lasmo
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