ENI SPA confirms it has Enterprise Oil PLC in its sights

Italy's ENI SPA, Europe's fourth-largest integrated oil company, has confirmed that its has substantial cash reserves to finance a takeover program that could include the UK independent exploration and production company Enterprise Oil PLC.

LONDON, Jan. 15 -- Italy's ENI SPA, Europe's fourth-largest integrated oil company, has confirmed that its has substantial cash reserves to finance a takeover program that could include the UK independent exploration and production company Enterprise Oil PLC.

Senior ENI management has confirmed speculation that ENI has Enterprise in its sights.

CEO Vittorio Mincato said in London, "Enterprise is interesting to ENI. It is not the only company interesting for ENI. Enterprise is a company interesting to ENI together with other companies. The UK is a place where such a deal can happen more easily. ENI is not interested in megamergers."

Financial analysts have speculated that the Italian company will launch a bid after Enterprise said last week that it had rejected an offer.

At a briefing in London Tuesday, CFO Marco Mangiagalli said, "We have a strong financial position and the reference to cash is appropriate. The company has considerable firepower should we decide to go ahead with any acquisition."

At the briefing ENI said it would boost oil and gas production by 6%/year to at least 1.7 million b/d in 2005, twice the rate targeted by its rivals, ExxonMobil Corp. and Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

ENI achieved its previous production growth target a year early, partly thanks to its 5.31 billion-euro acquisition last year of LASMO PLC, a UK-based Enterprise competitor, which added 196,000 b/d to its output.

Enterprise is expected to outline its position on Feb. 5, when it will announce its annual results.

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