PNG government exits Oil Search share register

A $205 million (US$162 million) block trade of Oil Search shares after market on Thursday looks to have brought to an end the longstanding presence of the Papua New Guinea government on the register of the growing oil and gas producer.

The sale of the 31.3 million shares, offered by UBS and JPMorgan, wraps up the complex and controversial funding arrangement entered into by the PNG government in 2014 to finance the acquisition of a circa 10 per cent stake in ASX-listed Oil Search. The block trade was first reported by Street Talk.

While the PNG government – through national oil and gas company Kumul Petroleum Holdings – held about 149 million shares in Oil Search, this column understands that the rest of the shares have already been gradually sold into the market by UBS and JPMorgan.

This block trade represents the balance of shares to be sold after the government decision to terminate the funding arrangement, which was originally with UBS alone and included a "collar" facility. The sale means the cash-strapped PNG government avoids having to repay the loan.

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