Caracal joins forces with TransGlobe to create Africa-focused explorer

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CALGARY – Two Canadian companies are joining forces to create what they call an oil “powerhouse” in Africa.

Caracal Energy Inc. and TransGlobe Energy Corp. (TSX:TGL) — focused on Chad and Egypt, respectively — announced their friendly deal on the weekend.

With a stock market value of US$1.8 billion, the combined company will be among the top independent energy players in Africa, chief executives of the two firms said Monday.

“Within the next two years, we may not be No. 3, we may be pressing on No. 1 as an independent producer in Africa,” said Caracal CEO Gary Guidry.

“This is going to be powerhouse,” added TransGlobe (TSX:TGL) CEO Ross Clarkson, who’ll be on the board of directors.

The combined company will carry on under the Caracal Energy name and will be led by Guidry.

Caracal shareholders will own about two-thirds of the new firm, with TransGlobe’s current shareholders owning the rest, assuming the deal closes as expected.

Under the deal announced late Saturday, each TransGlobe shareholder will receive 1.23 shares of Caracal for each TransGlobe share they own.

Guidry and Clarkson have known each other for some time — until this month, Guidry sat on TransGlobe’s board — and began discussing a possible merger in broad strokes about a year ago.

But when it came to considering an actual deal, Guidry recused himself because of his involvement on TransGlobe’s board and investments in the company.

“We saw that as a huge opportunity and we just needed the right time to do it,” said TransGlobe’s Clarkson.

“We’ve been looking at Chad for at least two years and looked at several deals. But we always came back to Caracal.”

And Egypt looked good to Caracal as a second platform from which to grow, said Guidry.

“Egypt is a country and a set of basins that we find as attractive as any in Africa,” he said.

Caracal expects its average production in 2014 to be between 31,000 and 34,000 barrels of oil per day.

The increased size will help Caracal grow, the CEOs said.

“Scale matters a lot,” said Clarkson.

“The critical mass that it gives us as a company is going to give us access to different capital markets,” added Guidry. “We think it’s going to give us access to different opportunities and be able to grow.”

Caracal currently lists in London, but another listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange is planned.

Caracal used to be known as Griffiths Energy, which last year agreed to pay a $10.35-million fine for bribery related to its Chad operations. The offences took place before Guidry and a new management team took over in July, 2011 — and two weeks before founder Brad Griffiths died in a boating accident in Ontario’s cottage country.

When the bribes were discovered by the new management, Griffiths essentially blew the whistle on itself. In May of last year, shareholders approved of a name change from Griffiths to Caracal.

TransGlobe’s shares gained 12 cents or 1.4 per cent Monday to $8.53 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in Monday afternoon trading on the TSX. Caracal Energy (LSE:CRCL) shares dropped 6.1 per cent in London.

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