Oct 18 2012

Gulf Keystone tells court not part of Excalibur deal

By Sarah Young

LONDON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - UK-listed oil exploration firm Gulf Keystone had no collaboration agreement with Excalibur Ventures LLC, its lawyer told a court on Thursday, dismissing claims made by Excalibur which is suing the company for a share of its Kurdistan oil fields.

In a trial at the English Commercial Court which opened on Monday, Excalibur is seeking a 30 percent stake of the oilfields' assets which it says it is entitled to under a collaboration agreement.

Lawyer Jonathan Gaisman told the court in his opening argument on Thursday that the agreement Excalibur had was not with Gulf Keystone, but rather, with Texas Keystone, a privately-held U.S. company founded by Gulf Keystone CEO Todd Kozel.

Gaisman drew the judge's attention to emails from mid-2007 which appear to show Excalibur's founder Rex Wempen agreeing with the position that Gulf Keystone was not a party to the agreement.

Excalibur has brought the case against both Gulf Keystone and Texas Keystone, arguing the latter was acting as an agent for the former.

It has said it believed Gulf Keystone would be brought into the agreement at a later stage.

Lawyers for claimant Excalibur accused Kozel of not being a credible witness in their opening argument after the oil boss, who is one of the best paid executives in Britain, changed his witness statement in the days before the case came to trial.

The discovery of the massive Shaikan oil field in 2009 transformed Gulf Keystone from a small explorer to a 1.75 billion pound ($2.8 billion) company, one of the biggest quoted on London's junior AIM market and with plans to move to the main list.

Gulf Keystone has been touted as a takeover target for an oil major looking for a foothold in the Kurdistan oil province but the legal battle is cited as an obstacle to any deal.

Texas Keystone, of which Kozel is a director, holds a small interest in the Shaikan field in trust for Gulf Keystone.

($1 = 0.6199 British pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Jason Neely)

((sarah.young@thomsonreuters.com)(+44 20 7542 1109)(Reuters Messaging: sarah.young.thomsonreuters@reuters.net))


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