London, England — 16 July 2012 – Thai oil firm PTT Exploration & Production has again extended its offer for gas explorer Cove Energy plc, putting the ball back in the court of rival suitor oil giant Shell which must decide imminently whether or not to up its bid.

Reuters reports that PTT’s third extension of the deadline for investors to accept its US$1.9 billion offer comes as investors wait to see how Shell, currently the under-bidder with a US$1.8 billion bid, will respond in the battle for Cove’s huge east African gas finds.

The two companies could be heading into the first formal takeover auction for a listed British company since 2008 after a five-month bidding war.

Britain’s takeover watchdog ruled on Friday that if neither suitor declared its current offer final before 1600 GMT today, an auction would start tomorrow, which could involve them submitting bids to daily deadlines until a winner is found.

If Shell and PTT don’t submit revised offers tomorrow, their current bids will be regarded as final and there will be no auction, leaving PTT in pole position given its higher offer.

PTT said the offer had been extended and would remain open until 25 July, the same day Shell’s current offer expires. So far Cove has won acceptances from only 0.25% of Cove shares.

The two companies have been battling to buy Cove since February, attracted by the company’s position in huge gas fields discovered off the coast of Mozambique which look set to transform the east African country into a major supplier of energy to Asia.

Source: Reuters. For more information, click here.