NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of Cobalt International Energy ( CIE) were the market leader Friday after a peer oil company reportedly hit "pay dirt" in a neighboring block to where Cobalt is exploring off the coast of Angola.

Maersk Oil, the exploration and production arm of Scandinavian shipping giant Maersk, is reportedly about to announce positive results of initial drilling in the pre-salt region offshore Angola. The pre-salt finds in Angola and Brazil are among the most coveted new areas of exploration for oil globally.

A report in industry trade publication Upstream Online said Maersk has positive results and is only waiting on government approval in Angola to release them.

Upstream Online reports that if confirmed, the discovery will open up the pre-salt play in the Angolan Kwanza basin.

Cobalt is the only other exploration and production company that has drilled in the same pre-salt Angolan offshore region, but was unsuccessful in its initial well.

Cobalt has plans to re-drill and a success by Maersk two blocks to the south would stoke interest in Cobalt, according to Tudor, Pickering, & Holt analyst David Heikkinen.

The news about Maersk has been dribbling out slowly, with Bloomberg reporting on Dec. 8 that the drilling results were expected before the end of the month, though it could not say that the results would be positive.

"We are still evaluating the results," Maersk CEO Jakob Thomasen told Bloomberg last week.

In political news from Angola that was bullish for foreign drillers, Angola's government reappointed Manuel Vicente as the head of the state oil company, Sonangol.

"Vicente ensures a "steady hand on the tiller" as Sonangol, Angola's state oil company considers more offshore licenses for companies, according to a political analyst quoted by Bloomberg. "Vicente is very much trusted among Angola's foreign oil partners," the analyst said.

Cobalt shares were up 20%, or $1.82 to $10.82 on Friday afternoon, on heavy volume 2.5 million shares, three times its average.

A Cobalt staffer returning a call placed by to the company's head of U.S. exploration and production, Jack Painter, said the company had read the report in Upstream Online about Maersk, but had no comment.

Kosmos Energy ( KOS), which also explores in West Africa's offshore region, though does not currently own blocks in Angola, was up 7% on Friday after Barclays upgraded it to a buy on the exploration and production company.

-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.


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