‘The SPC denies a report carried by the press and international news agencies on 19 and 20 June claiming ExxonMobil [Corporation of the US] winning a deal from Abu Dhabi emirate on the development of the offshore Upper Zakum oil field,’ the SPC statement read. ‘The SPC announces that the report is unfounded and baseless.’

The SPC went on to confirm that three IOCs – ExxonMobil, the Royal Dutch/Shell Groupand the UK’s BP– were still in contention for the acquisition. However, it sought to play down expectations of an imminent selection. ‘It [the SPC] affirms that the declaration of a winner will take a long time, exceeding six months,’ the statement added.

The SPC announcement is the latest twist in the planned restructuring of the Zadco shareholding, which currently comprises Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), with an 88 per cent stake, and Japan Oil Development Company (Jodco), with 12 per cent.

In 2000, BP and France’s Totalwere widely tipped to acquire the stake, which will be sold down by ADNOC, in a move which would have meant that Zadco’s shareholding would have been identical to the emirate’s other main offshore operator, Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (Adma-Opco).

Subsequently, competition was broadened and five IOCs submitted bids in 2002 for the stake (MEED 12:7:02).

Zadco produces about 550,000 barrels a day. The planned sell-off is aimed at giving the operator greater access to technology.