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Employees of Pacific Rubiales Petroleum Co. stand next to oil excavation pipes at Campo Rubiales field in Meta, eastern Colombia, January 23, 2013.JOSE MIGUEL GOMEZ/Reuters

Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp., which operates Colombia's largest oil field, has received a takeover approach by its biggest shareholder that values it at about $6-billion including debt, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Alfa SAB and Harbour Energy Ltd. have made an all-cash offer that values Pacific Rubiales at about $6 a share, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.

Pacific Rubiales rose 18 per cent to $5.50 at the close in Toronto, giving the company a market value of about $1.74-billion. The company has debt of about $4.7-billion, which has ballooned following acquisitions of smaller oil companies as it faces the end of a contract to operate the namesake Rubiales field.

Speculation of Alfa's interest in a takeover of Pacific Rubiales has been rife ever since the Mexican group disclosed a stake last year. Alfa built its stake to 19 per cent in October, just below the 20-per-cent threshold that would require a company to start a takeover bid in most cases under Canadian securities law.

Alfa would consider buying, selling or keeping shares of Pacific Rubiales, chairman Armando Garza said at a press conference last month. Such a decision "isn't easy to make," he said.

Peter Volk, Pacific Rubiales's general counsel, said he wouldn't comment on rumours, and a representative for Alfa declined to comment.

Harbour was formed by Noble Group Ltd., Asia's largest commodity trader by sales, and private-equity firm EIG Global Energy Partners LLC to invest in assets energy worldwide. A representative for Noble didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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