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LUKoil's S&P rating unchanged after big acquisition bid

MOSCOW, October 3 (RIA Novosti) - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said Monday it had not changed the rating and outlook on Russian oil major LUKoil (BB/Positive/--) following the company's $2 billion acquisition offer for Nelson Resources Limited, a Canada-listed oil and natural gas company operating in Kazakhstan.

Although LUKoil has reached an agreement with Nelson's principal shareholders on 57% of shares, the offer is still subject to a shareholder decision, which is expected in the coming months, the company's news release said.

S&P's said LUKoil's financials would be able to accommodate a $2 billion debt-financed acquisition, since funds from operations over the 12 months to June 2005 reached $6.2 billion ($5.5 billion in 2004), and net-unadjusted financial debt fell to $2.1 billion by the end of June (from $2.8 billion at year-end 2004), the document said.

"Nelson's production assets and estimated reserves of 270 million barrels would be a good strategic fit for LUKoil, for whom Kazakhstan represents a key country for diversification outside of Russia," the news release said.

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