Chairman of Skye Bank Plc, Tunde Ayeni and Chief Executive Officer/founder of Pan African International (PAI) Group, Ike Ejizu, among others, have partnered to acquire Ascot Offshore Nigeria Limited for an estimated N16 billion ($95.24 million) from the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
PAI is a mechanical engineering and equipment supplies company operating in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
A senior official with AMCON who confirmed the transaction to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said that the deal was closed recently when the PAI Group paid N16 billion for 95 per cent of the equity interest in Ascot.
Under the terms of the deal, he said the group would also take over the non-statutory liabilities of Ascot while AMCON would shoulder the company’s statutory liabilities amounting to some N6 billion.
“Ascot has a tax liability of N6 billion, of which AMCON will pay N3 billion to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) while the balance will be paid to other agencies of government that Ascot owes,” he said.
He said with the sale of the firm, its new owners would be able to revitalise its massive fabrication yard in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and provide jobs for thousands of Nigerians.
Although efforts to reach Ejizu were not successful, industry sources conversant with the transaction disclosed that the Ascot acquisition could prove to be very lucrative for PAI and its partners.
Ejizu, who holds controlling interest in PAI, also doubles as the Country Director/agent of Samsung Heavy Industries, which was awarded the $3.3 billion contract for the Egina deepwater oil field operated by France’s Total.
Industry sources confirmed that the Ascot fabrication yard in Port Harcourt has been certified by Total for the local fabrication of the Floating Production Storage Offloading (FPSO) vessel that will service the oil multinational’s Egina field.
Ascot Offshore, an energy services firm once led by Henry Imasekha, came into prominence in 2007 after its $155.25 million acquisition of Willbros Group Nigeria Holdings from its US parent, Willbros Group.
Willbros was forced to withdraw from Nigeria, following its indictment alongside Halliburton and others by the US Justice Department and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for bribing Nigerian officials to obtain and retain $387 million in Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) contracts.
In May 2008, Willbros was fined $32 million in combined penalties, disgorgement and pre-judgment interest by the US SEC and Justice Department on allegations relating to its operations in Nigeria, Ecuador and Bolivia.
However, after Willbros was taken over by Imasekha’s Ascot, it borrowed heavily from the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc in order to complete the West African Gas Pipeline contract that had been awarded by Chevron Nigeria Limited to Willbros before its departure from Nigeria.
Ascot’s ability to deliver the project was however hampered following a disagreement with Chevron on the execution of the gas pipeline contract from Escravos to Benin Republic, which resulted in the former defaulting on its loan obligations to Intercontinental Bank.
Owing to its inability to repay Intercontinental Bank, AMCON took over the firm and has managed Ascot’s operations until it was sold to PAI.