IGas-Dart deal to create UK’s biggest shale gas explorer

British shale gas explorer IGas has announced a £117.1 million deal to acquire the Australian prospector behind conflict-ridden plans to drill for coal-bed gas near Falkirk - Dart Energy.

The deal would create the UK's market-leading onshore group, which would have more than one million acres of the United Kingdom under licence.

Announcing the deal, IGas CEO Andrew Austin said, "The transaction further strengthens our position financially, operationally and also significantly increases our licensed acreage as we seek to unlock the untapped energy resource that exists in Britain."

IGas is already running 110 onshore hydrocarbon sites in the United Kingdom, producing as many as 3,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The British firm, which suffered a pre-tax loss of £6 million in the twelve months to March last year, also operates Britain's sole coal bed methane pilot site near Warrington, Cheshire.

Dart CEO John McGoldrick said that the combination of the two companies would create a clear "market leader" with a greater depth in terms of asset base, access to capital as well as operating capability.

Dart shareholders, including Australian coal miner New Hope Corp, will be given slightly more than 30 per cent stake in the combined company that has been valued at around £385 million. The deal comes at a premium of around 40 per cent to Dark's stock price at Friday's close.