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A different breed of private equity investment compared with buyout deals, the Blackstone Group and Warburg Pincus's funding of Kosmos Energy is more of a large-scale oil exploration venture capital investment. In 2003, Blackstone and Warburg Pincus forked over $300 million to a management team looking to drill oil prospects offshore of Ghana. The company borrowed additional funds and it struck oil in the Jubilee oil field in 2007, which gave it a near 24% claim on what it's appraised as 120,000 barrels of oil per day.
After striking oil, Kosmos Energy was reported to have received multi-billion dollar takeover bids from the likes of
ExxonMobil(XOM), but its private equity backers decided on a May 2011 IPO. In the share sale, Kosmos Energy sold nearly 38 million shares at $18 each, raising $683 million.
Since its IPO, Kosmos Energy shares are off over 25%, underperforming many oil industry peers on disappointing production at its Jubilee oil field. Nevertheless, analysts like Edward Westlake of Credit Suisse note that other wells in Ghana, Cameroon and Morocco exhibit promise to give the company a "outperform" rating and $25 a share price target. Overall, analysts polled by
Bloomberg give Kosmos Energy a price target of $18.94 a share, with 11 "buys," 2 "holds and a "sell" recommendation.
Nevertheless in a capital-intensive industry, there is the prospect of share dilution. Kosmos's closest private-equity oil exploration comparable
Cobalt International Energy(CIE) issued new shares to raise capital before reporting strong 2012 drilling results offshore of Angola that precipitated an over 100% stock rise since its December 2010 IPO. More crucial is Kosmos's significant private equity shareholding as the company's backers close in on a decade long holding period. In late February, Cobalt International Energy sold 15.7 million new shares and its private equity backers sold 31.3 million shares on the heels of a share surge.
Warburg Pincus still holds a near 40% stake in Kosmos Energy, or over 154 million shares, while Blackstone holds an over 32% stake. Overall, the two investors hold nearly 72% of Kosmos's outstanding shares, according to
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Written by Antoine Gara in New York.