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At about the same time, Mr. Manu wrote letters to potential bidders for the Kosmos stake, asking them if the U.S. company had given them access to petroleum data he said belonged to the GNPC. He said if so, the information had been released without the GNPC’s permission.

The dispute grew nastier. In a July 14, 2009, letter to one of the potential bidders, Mr. Manu said the GNPC “takes a serious view of the illegal manner in which data belonging to GNPC has been made available to you.” He accused the would-be bidder of “continued complicity in illegality” that affects Ghana and the GNPC.

Kosmos has maintained that it was fully entitled to disclose the information, and that it complied with all confidentiality requirements. The bidding was twice suspended or canceled to try to resolve the data issues and give the GNPC a chance to prepare a bid.

The GNPC, which claims to have “an exclusive pre-emptive right” to buy Kosmos‘ assets, twice failed to submit a bid. Kosmos said the GNPC has no such pre-emptive rights.

The Bank loans

The Ghanaian government, according to letters it sent to Kosmos, also delayed the U.S. company’s ability to obtain $750 million in loans to help fund its $850 million share of the $3.2 billion project costs to put Jubilee Field into production.

Kosmos needed the consent of Ghana and the GNPC to secure $100 million of the necessary $750 million from the World Bank’s International Finance Corp. (IFC). Both Ghana and the GNPC balked at giving consent, which usually is routine, according to oil industry observers.

A source close to the situation said Kosmos eventually found a way to work around the need for Ghana’s consent for the IFC loan.

ExxonMobil

In October 2009, Kosmos told the Ghanaian government it had an agreement to sell its stake in Jubilee Field to ExxonMobil for an undisclosed price, which has been estimated to be at least $4 billion. Ghana said it would block the sale.

In two February letters to top ExxonMobil officials, Mr. Oteng-Adjei said Ghana was “unable to support an ExxonMobil acquisition of Kosmos’s Ghana assets through the processes elected by Kosmos over the last year.” He said his government supported the strategic intent and efforts of the GNPC to acquire the Kosmos assets at a fair-market value.

He asked ExxonMobil to confirm that the agreement it had with Kosmos was no longer in effect and reminded ExxonMobil of the “importance that we attach to companies wishing to invest in Ghana respecting our laws and the sovereignty of Ghana.”

ExxonMobil declined to comment on the letters or on efforts by Ghana in the proposed sale. In a statement, the company said it “routinely evaluates potential development opportunities around the world,” adding that it was “not our practice to comment on the details of commercial discussions or opportunities.”

Kosmos has maintained that Ghana has no right to stop the ExxonMobil sale. While its petroleum agreements with Ghana say Kosmos cannot assign its interests without the written consent of the energy minister and the GNPC, the agreements also note that such consent “shall not be unreasonably denied, withheld or delayed.”

Oil analysts said such consent generally can be denied only if the buyer company lacks the financial or technical capabilities - which would not apply to ExxonMobil. The sale to ExxonMobil is at an impasse. Although Ghana has said it wants to buy Kosmos‘ stake at a fair price, it has not submitted a bid and it is unclear what it would be willing to pay.