There are things to love and loathe about most companies. Today, I'm going to tell you about three things to love about independent oil and gas explorer Gulf Keystone Petroleum Limited (LSE:GKP).

I'll also be asking whether these positive factors make Gulf Keystone a good investment today.

Pair "oil explorer" with "Alternative Investment Market (AIM)" and many investors will instantly reach for their barge poles. But bear with me on this one for a minute or two.

You may be surprised if I tell you that the online-dealing service of broker TD Waterhouse reported that Gulf Keystone was the most popular share purchased by its customers in 2012, beating blue-chip household name Lloyds Banking Group.

In fact, brokers notable for their nominee accounts -- such as TD Waterhouse and Halifax Share Dealing -- are among Gulf Keystone's major shareholders. TD Waterhouse is actually the biggest, holding 6.5% of the company's shares.

You see, Gulf Keystone is not some tin-pot microcap, but a £1.8 billion company ranked second only to online fashion retailer ASOS in the AIM index. If Gulf Keystone were listed on London's main market, it would sit at the top end of the FTSE 250.

Furthermore, while many AIM companies are notorious for the wide gap between their buy and sell prices, Gulf Keystone's bid-offer spread is respectably narrow: 208 pence-208.75 pence as I write.

Gulf Keystone's operations are concentrated in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where it's estimated there are 45 billion barrels of oil.

Gulf Keystone got into Kurdistan early and holds production-sharing contracts for four adjacent exploration blocks. One block alone, Shaikan, has audited gross oil-in-place volumes of 12 billion-15 billion barrels, making it one of the largest onshore exploration fields in the world today.

Gulf Keystone's aim is to establish itself as "one of the major independent exploration and production players listed on the London stock exchange." However, it also says in the FAQs on its website that "should there be any offer for the company," the board will make recommendations "that will consider the best interests of shareholders as to how they should respond."

With oil super-majors ExxonMobilChevron, and Total now operating in Kurdistan, a bid for Gulf Keystone at some point could be on the cards. Indeed, rumors of interest from ExxonMobil -- which has a block adjacent to Shaikan -- drove Gulf Keystone's shares up to 465 pence this time last year.

A good investment?
Gulf Keystone has a long way to go to realize the potential of its valuable assets, and while last year's bid rumor proved to be the work of Internet "rampers," the 465 pence to which the shares rose -- more than double the current price -- is an indication of what the market thinks the company could be worth if the value of its assets is outed.

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