Shell and PTT in auction for Cove

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Oil giant Shell and Thai peer PTT could be heading into the first formal takeover auction for a listed UK company since 2008 as they battle for Cove Energy and its stakes in huge new east African gas finds.

The Takeover Panel yesterday ruled that if neither suitor declared its current offer final before 4pm on Monday, an auction would start on Tuesday, which could see bids to daily deadlines until a winner is found.

The ball is in Shell’s court after its $1.8 billion (£1.1bn), or 220p-a-share, bid for Cove was trumped by a 240p-a-share offer from PTT in May.

East Africa is set to become one of the world’s largest gas exporters, supplying energy-hungry Asia with liquefied natural gas, a market in which Shell is one of the most experienced players.