LONDON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Genel Energy Plc dropped plans to buy oil expl
orers in Kurdistan after U.S. major Exxon Mobil arrived in the region, pushing valuations up, and is looking to spend its $1.9 billion cash pile elsewhere in the Middle East and in Africa.
The London-listed firm was formed three months ago when former BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward and financier Nathaniel Rothschild's bid vehicle bought Genel Enerji, a Turkish company focused on the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Genel had previously said it would be interested in buying Norway's DNO, a company which also has assets in Kurdistan.
'We are not intent on doing another big deal in Kurdistan. Anyone who thinks we're going to go and buy DNO is wrong, we're not,' Genel's chief executive Tony Hayward told reporters at a media briefing on Thursday.
'We don't need any more Kurdistan,' Hayward said, adding that the company was not going to buy British firm Gulf Keystone , another Kurdistan oil explorer which is regularly the subject of takeover rumours.
Hayward said the U-turn was due to Exxon Mobil's entry into the region, the first of the big Western oil groups with a Baghdad contract to invest in Kurdistan.
Exxon's arrival has stoked takeover speculation, pushing up the price of other oil companies.
'The thing that changed it most is Exxon arrived. 100 percent inflation in six months. DNO has doubled, GKP has doubled,' Hayward said.
Hayward said Genel wanted to diversify geographically within the Middle East and Africa and that more than one deal was likely.
'I think we'd be competitively advantaged because of our Turkish brand and our Turkish background in North Africa, because of the role that Turkey's playing in helping those countries create a new future,' he said.
AWAY FROM THE DEALS
Hayward, who was chief executive of BP at the time of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, won't be distracted by a legal battle involving his former company over damages and liabilities connected to the disaster in 2010.
'I have no involvement, I know nothing about it,' Hayward said when asked about a trial which starts on Monday in New Orleans.
Back in Kurdistan, Genel does not export oil from its giant fields in the northern most part of the region, due to a feud between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Arab-dominated central government of Iraq over territory and oil rights.
As a result it is restricted to selling into Kurdistan's domestic market, where oil is sold for around $60 per barrel, half the current price of Brent crude, reducing the firm's potential revenues by between $50 million and $100 million.
Hayward said he was not worried by Genel's reliance on Kurdistan's domestic market for oil sales, although he noted that the political situation in Iraq had worsened in recent months, potentially pushing out the timeframe for agreement between Baghdad and Kurdistan over oil exports.
'We are planning our business on the basis of domestic sales for 2012. The domestic market is deep, robust, and is providing us with a very significant source of revenue,' Hayward said.
Genel said it was expecting revenues of between $250 million and $300 million from its Kurdistan oil sales in 2012.
(Additional reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Neil Maidment) Keywords: GENEL/
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