Seplat: No Rating Impact from Delay to Purchase Exxon’s Nigerian Asset –Fitch

Seplat: No Rating Impact from Delay to Purchase Exxon’s Nigerian Asset –Fitch

The delay to, or possible cancellation of, Seplat Energy Plc.’s acquisition of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU) from Exxon Mobil will not have any impact on Seplat’s rating, Fitch Ratings says. Again, the deal is on hold due to arbitration in Nigerian High State Court between Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) and MPNU.

Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari gave consent to allow the indigenous oil firm to scale with the acquisition but later withdraw, a move he said is to allow regulators to do their work.

Fitch affirmed Seplat’s rating on 13 April 2022 following the announcement of the acquisition of MNPU’s assets. The transaction, funded by a mixture of debt and cash, was valued at about USD1.3 billion, plus up to USD300 million contingent consideration.

The additional payment is subject to minimum oil price and MNPU’s production levels thresholds between 2022 and 2026.

The deal is expected to strengthen Seplat’s business profile through the addition of offshore hydrocarbons producing assets and increase in its production to about 146,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day (boe/d) from 50,000 boe/d.

Fitch expects that post-acquisition the company would maintain moderate funds from operations (FFO) net leverage below 1.5x in 2022-2023 and below 2.0x in 2024-2025. However, the rating would still be constrained due to a high concentration of assets in Nigeria (B/Stable; Country Ceiling: ‘B’).

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In the absence of the acquisition Seplat’s business profile would remain in line with its ‘B’ rating. Furthermore, the company has strong liquidity of USD350 million as of June 2022 and can reduce FFO net leverage materially below 1.0x in 2022 and 2023 assuming no incremental dividends compared to the acquisition case.

If higher dividends were paid Fitch expects that Seplat would maintain conservative leverage of 1.5x-2.0x and remain within our rating sensitivities. READ: Brent Slides to $71.40 amidst Delay in Iran Nuclear Deal Talk

Fitch believes that the sales and purchase agreement as well as all financing for the acquisition remain in place and that the transaction can be concluded as soon as the arbitration process concludes.

If the transaction is cancelled, assume that Seplat will be reimbursed $128 million paid as a deposit in Q1-2022, the rating agency said.

The request for arbitration between NNPC and MPNU was made public on 11 July 2022 and is linked to a dispute over the interpretation of pre-emption rights under a joint operating agreement between the parties.

Although Seplat is not a party to the suit, the Nigerian State High Court ordered an injunction preventing the completion of the acquisition until the court proceedings end.

It is difficult to estimate how long the proceedings may last but approval of the MNPU assets sale by Nigerian President and Oil Minister Muhammadu Buhari granted on 8 August may support a quicker resolution of the arbitration process. # Seplat: No Rating Impact from Delay to Purchase Exxon’s Nigerian Asset –Fitch

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