For a while it was all Aiteo, Aiteo, Seplat, Seplat when it came to looking for home-grown Nigerian oil players with big ambitions. But there’s a new contender! Nigerian fuel retailer Nipco has launched a 4.84 billion naira ($16 mln) offer for the shares it needs to take bump up its stake in Mobil Oil to 70 percent.

Nipco’s investment subsidiary bought 60 percent of Mobil Oil Nigeria from Exxon Mobil Corp last year, when the U.S. oil giant back out of downstream fuel distribution in West Africa.

It is offering its minority shareholders 417.12 naira per share for the 3.23 percent of the capital it needs. This is the same price Nipco paid Exxon last year.

Shares in Lagos-listed Mobil Oil have lost 10 percent this year, giving the company a market value of 85.95 billion naira ($282 million).

The downstream oil industry in Africa’s biggest economy is consolidating as multinational oil firms divest to focus on upstream exploration with higher margins, especially given the backdrop of lower crude prices. This has presented opportunities for domestic and indigenous oil companies to steal a march on refining and other downstream products.

Nigeria exports nearly 2 million barrels of oil a day but imports the bulk of its refined products because its refining capacity is unable to meet the country’s daily fuel needs of 40 million litres. Whoever can unlock the secret to refining capacity can make an absolute killing.

And some firms are at least doin their best to get a slice of the action. One of Mobil Oil’s main rivals, Oando, has now shifted away from being a fuel distributor to explore for oil and gas.

With the oil sector in recovery and ambitious indigenous firms looking to make their mark, it looks like the bull market isn’t going anywhere for the near future.

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