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Unocal Could Bid for Triton, Analysts Say

June 02, 1998|From Bloomberg News

DALLAS — Oil and gas producer Triton Energy Ltd. is considering selling the entire company, people familiar with Triton said Monday.

Possible buyers include Unocal Corp. of El Segundo, British Petroleum Co. of Britain and Total of France, all which have operations in some of the same areas as Triton, analysts said.

Dallas-based Triton is auctioning properties in the Gulf of Thailand and Colombia. Potential buyers were invited to submit bids by the end of this month for Triton's oil and natural gas fields as well as for the whole company, the people said.

Triton, which has lost money for two of the last four years, has a market value of $1.37 billion.

A BP spokesman in London declined to comment. Officials at Unocal and Total were not immediately available for comment.

"Triton is cash-strapped," said Fadel Gheit, an analyst with Fahnestock & Co. who rates Triton stock a "buy." "They don't have enough money to spend on reserves, but give those assets to another company and the potential could be huge." Gheit said the whole company could sell for as much as $1.8 billion.

"Triton is reviewing any and all options to create and deliver value to shareholders," Triton spokeswoman Sheila Durante said.

In March, Triton hired CIBC World Markets, Lovegrove & Associates and Lehman Bros. to advise on ways to sell all or part of the stakes in the Gulf of Thailand and Colombia properties. Triton said selling part of the fields would establish a market value for them that would be reflected in its stock price.

Triton and partner Petroliam Nasional Berhad, Malaysia's state oil firm, discovered eight gas fields off Thailand holding the equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil.

Triton shares fell 69 cents to close at $38.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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