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Oil and gas producer and explorer AWE has given suitor Mineral Resources three business days to match a superior proposal lobbed by Japanese firm Mitsui & Co.

AWE has so far fielded three takeover offers. The first was from China Energy Reserve and Chemical Group, then a bid by Mineral Resources, which it was endorsing up until Mitsui’s recent proposal.

The company has decided that Mitsui’s 95 cents a share all-cash offer, which values AWE at $602 million, is superior to MinRes’s 83 cents-a-share cash and scrip bid.

AWE said it has reached an in-principle agreement with Mitsui and late on Tuesday issued a notice to MinRes asking it to match the rival bid by Friday.

“If MinRes does not match the Mitsui proposal within that period, AWE intends to enter into the Mitsui bid implementation deed and to change its recommendation to a recommendation that AWE shareholders accept the Mitsui takeover bid, in the absence of a superior proposal,” AWE said in a statement on Wednesday.

The company also released its December production report which showed production and revenue higher.

The group’s December quarter production was consistent with the prior quarter at 0.6 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMboE).

However, sales revenue rose 13 per cent to $21.8 million largely due to an increased volume of condensate and improved LPG prices.

The company said conditions in the Australian domestic gas markets also remained strong.

Shares in AWE dropped 0.5 per cent to 97 cents.