Investor: Petroceltic overhaul is irreversible

The activist investor at the centre of the ongoing board battle at Irish explorer Petroceltic is confident its push for a change to the company’s management and operational strategy will succeed this year, even if it loses the vote at next week’s shareholder meeting.

Investor: Petroceltic overhaul is irreversible

Angelo Moskov, chief executive of Swiss-based investment firm Worldview Capital Management — which has been a shareholder in Petroceltic since 2011 and currently controls nearly 30% — said the process currently in train is “irreversible”. He said its proposed changes will come about either at next week’s EGM or at subsequent ones later this year.

Petroceltic’s shareholders meet next Wednesday to vote on three resolutions, two tabled by Worldview and one by the Irish firm. The explorer is nominating two additional independent directors for board appointment, while Worldview wants chief executive Brian O’Cathain unseated and removed from the board. It wants to add Mr Moskov and oil industry veteran Maurice Dijols. That, the firm said, would give it one direct representative and three independent nominees on the board.

Worldview has been vocal about its concerns over how Petroceltic has been managed — claiming that it is overspending on projects, is taking too long to devleop key assets, and is in danger of running out of cash.

Mr Moskov said yesterday that Petroceltic has “a world class asset base” if managed properly. He wants the Dublin firm to offload assets in Greece, Romania, Italy, and offshore Egypt. He also wants it to better utilise onshore Egyptian and Algerian assets, saying that spending should be curtailed in favour of financing assets from improved cashflows from existing fields. Worldview said its strategy would increase Petroceltic’s profitability, via accelerated production and the elimination of “wasteful spending”.

He added that the stated support for Petroceltic’s board — added to by recommendations by the three main shareholder advisory firms earlier this week, to vote against Worldview — ahead of next week’s meeting is “irrelevant” and that the Irish company is running out of cash. Shareholder backing will inevitably switch to Worldview as the picture worsens over the next six months, he said.

Mr Moskov refused to say how confident he is about next week’s vote, but suggested Worldview would not be backing down in the event of losing the upcoming ballot. He said the changes it wants, in order to boost its investment returns, will come about at some point this year and that Worldview will “consider all options”. The investor is likely to call further EGMs if it doesn’t get its way next week. Petroceltic has already defended its financial position, claiming it will not need to raise further cash this year.

Worldview has also complained about Petroceltic’s alleged mishandling of its potential sale to Dubai-based Dragon Oil last year and its apparent openness to accepting an undervalued offer.

Dragon Oil yesterday clarified that it has “no intention” of making another offer for Petroceltic and is still bound by a 12-month bid embargo.

That followed Dragon commenting, earlier this week, about its respect for Petroceltic’s assets and management and that it wasn’t ruling out any potential takeover targets. Worldview sees Petroceltic only being saleable on the back of its proposed strategic model.

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