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$3bn drilling firm to tap oil sector boom.

Byline: ARTHUR MACDONALD

MANAMA: Bahrain-based First Energy Bank unveiled its first major investment with the launch of a $3 billion drilling company that will exploit opportunities in the booming oil industry across the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. MENAdrill has been set up by the bank with strategic partners and plans to be one of the largest companies of its kind in the region, designed to capitalise on ever-increasing hydrocarbon prices and the resulting robust demand for oil and gas drilling services.

The company aims to have more than 20 rigs operating within three to five years and is in the process of acquiring a leading drilling company with a number of rigs already working in the region and others under construction.

MENAdrill's diversified drilling portfolio will include jackup and semisubmersible rigs capable of drilling in shallow, medium and deep water as well as land rigs.

It will also provide project management services.

Partners in MENAdrill, which will be based in Bahrain, include Gulf Finance House and Arab Drilling and Workover Company (ADWOC) and strategic and technical advisers PFC Energy International and Noble Denton.

"With the oil price regularly reaching record highs and reserves steadily decreasing, we saw a first-class opportunity for a new company to bring together the skills, know-how and investments required to drive the industry in the region and set a new benchmark in drilling operations," First Energy Bank chairman Esam Janahi.

"By penetrating this high entry barrier industry with its high margins, MENAdrill will be able to deliver outstanding returns to its investors," he said.

"The largest European and South American reserves are offshore. In the Middle East, Africa and Asia, offshore reserves are not fully explored.

"MENAdrill is positioned to capitalise on the heavy global investment in finding and delivering new resources and has set the cornerstone for a leading off-shore drilling regional operator."

MENAdrill will be capitalised at $1bn and will use bank lending to create and initial investment fund of $3bn as opportunities arise.

The lead financial adviser is First Energy Bank. Launched last year with an initial paid-up capital of $1bn, First Energy Bank focuses on key sectors of the energy industry, from oil and gas to power, offering Sharia-compliant investment solutions backed by professional standards of the highest order.

ADWOC is a leading onshore drilling company with operations in Libya and Syria and has a fleet of nine drilling and five workover rigs.

PFC Energy International, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is a worldwide organisation who are advisers to energy companies and governments.

"By harnessing the substantial private capital resources of producing regions to invest in global energy infrastructure, First Energy Bank will make a valuable contribution toward increasing global capacity," said PFC Energy International senior director Raoul Leblanc.

"PFC Energy International looks forward to using its wide experience of the global exploration and production and oil service industries to provide strategic advice to the MENAdrill project."

He said that with the booming oil market large semisubmersible rigs could command a daily rental rate of $500,000 while 300 foot jack up rigs were costing $180,000 a day.

He said there was no shortage of work for rigs.

"There are around 1,200 rigs operating in the US and less than 100 in Africa and given the resources available that should be the other way round.

MENAdrill's technical partner is Noble Denton, a company with in-depth experience and capability in marine consultancy and ocean engineering services to the offshore energy industry.

"As the premier global provider of marine and engineering services to the offshore industry, Noble Denton is delighted to be working with First Energy Bank, with whom we have developed an excellent relationship, and are very excited about the potential that they will bring to the offshore drilling market said Noble Denton managing director David Wells.

"We exist to provide global capability in complex marine operations and offshore engineering."

In the Middle East Noble Denton specialises in offshore activities from detailed engineering design to offshore construction activities to specialist marine operations such as rig moving.

With a client base consisting of almost all offshore drilling rig owners and oil majors throughout the region, the company attend on over 100 jack up rigs during rig moves and represents most major local and international underwriters.

business@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Jul 16, 2008
Words:733
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