(Reuters) - U.S.-based Harbour Energy raised its bid for Australia’s Santos Ltd (STO.AX) to $10.8 billion on Monday, hiking its offer for a fifth time in nine months after a steep rise in oil prices and potentially deterring any rival bids.
Shares in the oil and gas producer rose on the back of the sweetened bid but remain below the offer price amid uncertainty over whether the government will approve what would be the biggest takeover of an Australian resources company.
“You’ve got to think the new bump is going to make it more likely the board will approve it...But there are risks,” said Andy Forster, senior investment officer at Argo Investments, a top 10 shareholder in Santos.
Analysts have said the government might raise concerns that a takeover could dent gas supply on Australia’s east coast and could even raise questions about foreign companies not paying enough tax in Australia.
A successful bid would give Harbour access to a recently revived company with a low cost of gas production and stakes in liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the Asia-Pacific, where demand is soaring.
Harbour’s latest offer, raised twice over the past five days, is equivalent to A$6.95 a share at an exchange rate of 75 U.S. cents to 1 Australian dollar, and is at an 11-percent premium to the last close of Santos shares on Friday.
“The new higher bids underline Harbour’s desire to receive the board recommendation it needs and in our view staves off any ambitions from an interloper,” Royal Bank of Canada analysts said in a note on Monday.
Argo’s Forster said the