Australian-based producer Woodside Exploration Ltd. formally launched an unsolicited bid for Energy Partners Ltd. (EPL) on Thursday, offering $880 million for the New Orleans-based producer. Woodside offered $23 for each outstanding share of EPL, contingent on EPL not completing its pending $1.4 billion merger with Stone Energy Corp. (see Daily GPI, Aug. 29).

EPL said it is reviewing the offer, which is effective until Sept. 28.

In the offer, Woodside said that if either of two termination fees involved in the EPL-Stone transaction are invalidated as a result of a lawsuit, its offer will rise to $23.50 per share. If both of the transaction fees are ruled invalid, Woodside said its offer would rise to $24. On Thursday, EPL was trading at around $24.77. Stone said it intends to proceed with the merger agreement.

Woodside also has filed a lawsuit challenging an EPL bylaw that requires 85% of the company’s shareholders approve the removal and appointment of board members. Woodside noted it believes only a majority of shareholders would have to approve board members, and through its Covington, LA-based subsidiary ATS Inc., Woodside said it will replace the EPL board with its own nominees.

The EPL bid follows Woodside’s acquisition of Houston-based Gryphon Exploration last year (see Daily GPI, Sept. 2, 2005). It noted that it has operated in the United States since 1999.

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