French oil and gas explorer Maurel & Prom's Paris listing is becoming a "handicap" and the group is considering a second listing in London to move closer to oil and gas investors, its chief executive told Reuters.
Maurel & Prom's comments follow a decision earlier this year by bigger French competitor Total to move part of its treasury and investor relations teams to London, angering some French politicians wary of tax exiles.
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"It's true that our listing in Paris is a handicap, because we're the only player of our size in the upstream here," Chief Executive Jean-Francois Henin said, referring to exploration and production.
Being listed in London would offer the group more visibility with Anglo-American oil and gas investors, and analysts covering the sector, who are increasingly based in London, he said in an interview at the group's headquarters in central Paris.
"It could be Paris-London and, why not, London-Paris," Henin added.
The London stock market has been the epicentre for global commodity players, with energy and mining companies from South America, Africa and Asia listing their shares in London to lure investors.
The mid-sized group, created 200 years ago as a trading company between Bordeaux and the French colonies, has regularly been the subject of takeover talk, with its CEO confirming earlier this year he had been in contact with possible buyers.
Henin, who owns 24 percent of the company and will turn 70 next year - the group's age limit for an executive mandate - declined to comment on speculation the group had received offers from Indonesian, Indian or Chinese companies, or Shell .
He said, however, that a large acquisition, a merger, or a big oil and gas discovery needing capital would be a good opportunity for the group to add a London listing.
"When we talk about marriage, it's a bit with a dual objective: to grow and to have access to another stock exchange where the market is deeper," Henin said.
In a first step, the company could open its order book to London investors through the NYSE Euronext platform as early as 2014, following Nigerian subsidiary Seplat's planned listing in London and Nigeria next month, Henin said.
"We looked at the possibility of a simple dual listing," the CEO added. "Once Seplat is settled, we will ask ourselves the question again."
Henin said he was not considering moving the group's headquarters to London, however, saying France's tax regime was not less attractive than Britain's.
"For the company, as a holding, there is no advantage whatsoever to going to London," Henin said. "The tax and legal frameworks are very favourable here. The French Treasury has organised that over the last 40 years, it's been very well done."
Henin also confirmed the group's 2013 output target for Gabon, Maurel & Prom's main production area, of 27,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d), saying "we should be a little above that".
For 2014, Henin said he expected to reach production of 35,000 boe/d in Gabon. This would lead to bottlenecks in the Total pipeline to Cape Lopez which could be resolved using a neighbouring Shell pipeline, the CEO said.
Henin also said the company had been recognised as an oil operator by the Iraqi government, which would help Maurel & Prom bid for permits from Baghdad.
(Editing by James Regan)