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Premier Oil Rebuffs Two Recent Takeover Offers from Ophir Energy -Sources

By Selina Williams LONDON U.K.-listed oil and gas explorer Premier Oil PLC has rebuffed two recent takeover offers from its peer Ophir Energy PLC, according to people familiar with the matter, stymieing a deal that would have created a company worth GBP3 billion with assets in East Africa, the North Sea, Vietnam and the Falkland Islands. Premier's most recent all-share offer for Ophir was rejected around two weeks ago, one of the people said. The first offer from Ophir came days after Premier's Chief Executive Simon Lockett said in February that he would be stepping down after nine years at the helm of the company, the people said. A successful tie-up would have created the fifth-largest London-listed oil and gas company after BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BG Group PLC and Tullow Oil PLC. But given that the second offer was "robust," it was unlikely there would be another bid, said one of the people familiar with the matter. Africa-focused wildcatter Ophir Energy, headed by former Goldman Sachs banker Nick Cooper, has been seeking to acquire a company with oil production to increase its cash flow. A merger with Premier, which produced 582,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day last year, would have been attractive for Ophir, giving it funds to spend on drilling costly deep water exploration wells and opening up new areas. Ophir has had major exploration successes, notably a big gas find in 2012 off the coast of Tanzania--one of the oil industry's hottest new areas. A deal could in turn have helped to shore up Premier, whose shares have fallen around 11% in the past year. Investors once viewed Premier as a solid company with dependable production growth, but have become disappointed with the company following its 2012 entry into the technically challenging Sea Lion project in the Falkland Islands. That project will cost an estimated $5.2 billion to develop, funds some shareholders would prefer to have seen returned to them. Write to Selina Williams at Subscribe to WSJ:

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