British oil and gas explorer Cove Energy said on Thursday it had put itself up for sale and would conduct a formal sale process through its advisor Standard Bank.

The company said in December it had offered data to parties who had expressed an interest in acquiring its 8.5 percent stake in the Rovuma Area 1 block in Mozambique, a liquid natural gas project which is moving towards the development stage.

Rovuma Area 1 represents a substantial portion of Cove's asset value within the portfolio of focussed and complementary assets which the company has built in East Africa. As such the directors have unanimously agreed that a sale of the company may be appropriate at this time, Cove said in a statement.

In addition to the sale process, Cove said it would continue to examine other strategic options including a sale of the Rovuma Area 1 stake rather than the whole company.

Cove said Britain's Takeover Panel had agreed that potential suitors need not be publicly identified and that they will not be subject to the usual 28 day rule for making a formal bid.

Shares in Cove Energy closed on Wednesday at 112.5 pence, valuing the business at 552 million pounds.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; editing by Rhys Jones)