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Market report: Amerisur sale in full swing, Pearson signs deal with Egyptian government

Mark Shapland

A bidding war for AIM-listed Amerisur Resources was in full swing today after the oil explorer turned down an offer from Paris-based Maurel & Prom — opening the door to other offers.

Colombia-focused Amerisur put itself on the block last week and Maurel & Prom offered 17p per share, valuing the firm at about £210 million. But Amerisur rebuffed the bid, saying: “The board concluded that the offer undervalued the company and was not at a level that merited further consideration.”

The company said it is now evaluating other offers it has received in a sales process being run by BMO Capital Markets and Stifel. Firms understood to be eyeing up Amerisur include US companies Occidental and GeoPark, India’s Oil and Natural Corporation and Canada’s Parex Resources — all of which have operations in Colombia.

Colombia’s Ecopetrol is also believed to be interested as well as former BP chief executive Tony Hayward and private equity firm Carlyle who teamed up in 2017 and have been hunting for assets in Colombia for the past two years.

The firm — which is chaired by former ECB chairman Giles Clarke — saw its shares rise 6% or 1p at 17.4p.

On the main markets, the FTSE 100 was steady, up 18.01 points at 7526.71.

Education firm Pearson was being watched closely. The Standard can reveal that it has signed a contract with the Egyptian government to provide exams for the country’s teenagers aged between 15 and 17.

The deal is worth “tens of millions”, sources say, and is Pearson’s largest ever assessment contract. The company hopes it can now win similar deals with other governments around the globe and shares were up 3.2p at 885p.

Elsewhere, there was movement in the grocery market after analysts at Barclays said Sainsbury’s shares are looking cheap.

The stock is at 30-year lows after the Asda merger failed but according to the scribblers sales have picked up in recent months and investors should take another look. Sainsbury’s shares were up 2% or 4.8p at 210p despite some in the City wanting chief executive Mike Coupe to step aside. Ocado also rose 22.5p at 1217p and Marks and Spencer gained 1.2p at 207.3p.

There were some fallers including Premier Inn owner Whitbread which said it had completed a programme to return £2.5 billion to shareholders after it sold Costa Coffee to Coca-Cola last year. Whitbread cancelled the shares at a price of 4972p per share. Today its shares were down 162p at 4740p.