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BG wins control of Australia’s Pure in gas push

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By Peter Smith in Sydney

Published: March 24 2009 02:00 | Last updated: March 24 2009 02:00

BG Group has won control of Pure Energy after investors owning 70 per cent of the Australian group’s share register accepted the UK oil and gas group’s A$8-a-share cash offer.

However, BG has yet to secure the 20.3 per cent stake owned by Australia’s Arrow Energy, which this month abandoned its own pursuit of Pure.

BG has promised to increase its offer to A$8.25 a share, valuing Pure at A$1.03bn ($719m) although the higher offer price is conditional on its receiving 90 per cent shareholder acceptance, which would require support from Arrow.

Arrow, which stands to make a profit of about A$200m on its Pure stake, has yet to make its intentions known.

Arrow could be less likely to accept BG’s offer if it ends up being lumbered with a large tax bill on the sale of its stake.

Pure is important to BG as the UK group attempts to cement its position in Australia’s industry for coal bed methane – gas that is extracted from coal seams – which has been a focus of interest for many international energy groups over the past year.

The bid for Pure initially pitted BG against its larger rival, Royal Dutch Shell, which already has a joint venture with Arrow developing coal bed methane in Australia and elsewhere.

However, Shell undermined Arrow’s chances of winning Pure when it said last month that, in the absence of a higher offer, it would sell its own 11 per cent stake to BG.

BG plans to use the coal bed methane it will produce in Australia to feed a liquefied natural gas plant in Queensland. This in turn will serve Asian markets.

BG has insisted that it would have enough gas to fill the plant even without Pure, thanks to its £2bn ($2.9bn) acquisition of Queensland Gas Company last year.

However, securing access to Pure’s reserves would make BG more comfortable about its ability to produce sufficient volumes for what is still an untried process of conversion.

No one has yet set up a commercial project using coal bed methane to produce LNG. Shell has made less progress with its evaluation of a possible LNG plant in Queensland.

Pure has recommended the BG offer to its shareholders, saying that the price is attractive and should be accepted.

After becoming the majority owner of Pure, BG yesterday extended the offer period until April 6.

Pure shares closed up 2 cents at A$8.12 in Sydney.

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