LONDON (Reuters) - A court ruled in favour of Kurdistan-focused explorer Gulf Keystone (LSE:GKP) in a case over its ownership of giant oil fields, removing a legal shadow hanging over the company and making it a more attractive to potential suitors.
In a packed courtroom, the judge on Tuesday dismissed claims made by Exalibur Ventures that it was entitled to a 30 percent share in the company's oil fields, bringing to a close almost three years of legal wranglings.
Gulf Keystone has long been touted as a takeover target for a big oil company looking for a foothold in Kurdistan, but the ongoing uncertainty created by the legal battle had been cited as a potential obstacle to any takeover deal.
The company's prize asset in Kurdistan is the Shaikan field, which is estimated to hold at least 12 billion barrels of oil - a volume which would make it one of the biggest discoveries made anywhere in recent years - and from which it aims to produce 250,000 barrels per day by 2018.
Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region of Iraq locked in a dispute with Baghdad over oil exports and payments, was once the domain of smaller companies such as Gulf Keystone but recently big oil such as Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), Total (TOTF.PA), Chevron (CVX.N) and Gazprom (GAZP.MM), have all moved in.
Excalibur's case was made against Gulf Keystone and Texas Keystone, a company founded by Gulf Keystone Chief Executive Todd Kozel, which holds a small interest in the Shaikan field in trust for Gulf Keystone.
Excalibur, a two-man company which said it helped introduce Gulf Keystone to the opportunity in Kurdistan, began legal action in 2010.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Andrew Callus)