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New Bidder Emerges To Buy Fletcher

February 28, 2001

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ New Zealand companies and institutional investors have made a last-ditch bid to buy local group Fletcher Energy, topping a bid by Royal Dutch Shell and U.S.-based Apache Corp, officials said Wednesday.

Greymouth Petroleum late Tuesday posted a bid which topped Shell’s, valued by analysts at New Zealand dollars $1.5 billion (3.4 billion dollars New Zealand), or $125 million (290 million) more than the Shell offer.

Greymouth is acting for a consortium called Peak Petroleum Company of New Zealand, which includes Sir Ron Brierley’s Guinness Peat Group, New Zealand-based FR Partners, leading local and overseas institutional investors in Fletcher Energy and some local private investors.

The last-minute bid comes only days before Fletcher Energy shareholders meet March 6 to vote on the Shell offer.

Aside from the higher cash offer, Greymouth’s bid is almost identical to that of Shell. But unlike Shell, it would seek to list on the local and overseas stock exchanges, running Fletcher Energy’s local and Brunei assets as an ongoing business.

The company’s Canadian and Argentine assets would be sold to Calgary-based Penn West Petroleum Ltd. which is backing the consortium financially.

Greymouth chairman Mark Dunphy said he was motivated by wanting to keep the group’s local assets under New Zealand ownership.

Parent company Fletcher Challenge Ltd. chief executive Michael Andrews said Wednesday the new bid needs serious consideration.

In a statement, Shell and partner Apache Corporation expressed surprise that the offer from Greymouth should materialize at the eleventh hour.

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