Transocean rumoured to want stake in Aban

Vol 13, PW 19 (11 Mar 10) People & Policy

Transocean is widely rumoured to be about to acquire between 20% and 40% of Chennai-based driller Aban Offshore.

“I hear the deal is about to happen,â€‌ claims a driller. “Talks have been going on for a month.

â€‌ US-based Transocean is the world’s largest deepwater drilling contractor with a rig fleet of around 136 including jack-ups, semi submersibles, deepwater and ultra-deepwater drillships. Aban has been aggressively growing its rig fleet over the past few years, and in the process has acquired considerable debts.

When contacted by PETROWATCH, Aban dismissed the speculation. “These rumours have no substance,â€‌ snaps a senior company source.

Transocean did not return calls made to its Mumbai office but its global corporate communications director Guy Cantwell in Houston wrote an email to this report on March 9. “Thank you for your inquiry about Transocean in India,â€‌ writes Cantwell.

“Please note that we do not comment on market rumours.â€‌ Industry sources believe Aban is ready to sell a stake to Transocean so it can raise money to service its mountain of debt.

“Aban is in great need of funds,â€‌ says an industry observer. “I have also heard whispers about a deal with Transocean.

â€‌ On March 4, The Economic Times reported that Aban is seeking a moratorium on short term loans from the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Punjab National Bank. Aban was apparently in danger of defaulting on loans worth Rs200cr ($43.5m), prompting the request.

Aban’s perilous finances are no secret. In a company presentation this month the Chennai-based driller candidly admits it is in debt to the tune of a staggering $3.28bn with a 10-year repayment schedule, though no large repayment is due till 2019.

Some critics blame Aban’s dire position on a massive acquisition spree that saw its rig fleet grow over the past five years, as the company gambled on a global rise in rig-hire rates. “Aban was wrong in its demand assessment for jack-ups,â€‌ says a former employee.

“It was also wrong about the direction of charter rates.â€‌

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