Exxon to resume Madagascar work four years after coup

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp said its affiliates in Madagascar have obtained extensions to their production-sharing licences, allowing exploration activities to resume four years after the company declared force majeure following a coup on the island. Exxon's return will be a boon for the cash-starved Indian Ocean nation and comes as the Malagasy people await the outcome of a presidential election many hope will end a political crisis and rebuild investor confidence in the crippled economy. "The affiliates intend to resume exploration work and environmental assessments for shore-based and offshore operations in preparation for deepwater drilling," Exxon said in a statement late on Wednesday. The declaration of force majeure in 2009 by Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, was a blow for coup-leader-turned-president Andry Rajoelina, whose power grab triggered a slump in foreign direct investment. Rajoelina signed the extensions in July, Exxon said. Exxon holds three production-sharing contract licenses in Madagascar, which has no proven offshore hydrocarbon reserves but shares a maritime boundary with Mozambique where huge deposits of natural gas have been found. Another oil firm, AIM-listed Madagascar Oil, estimates its two principal onshore fields, Tsimiroro and Bemolanga, have multi-billion-barrel resource volumes in place.