Investors turn up heat on PetroNeft Resources and Petroceltic

Activist investor Natlata Partners has reiterated its call for an overhaul of Irish exploration firm PetroNeft Resources’ board of directors.

Investors turn up heat on PetroNeft Resources and Petroceltic

PetroNeft is holding an egm, convened by Natlata, on April 18 at which shareholders will vote on a number of resolutions including the removal of four current directors of the Irish firm.

PetroNeft’s management and two leading shareholder advisory firms — ISS and Glass Lewis — have urged investors to oppose the motions. PetroNeft recently agreed a deal with partner company Oil India to fund the ongoing development of its Licence 61 asset in Siberia.

However, Oil India’s commitment to cover 100% of the funding, without PetroNeft having to raise any, is conditional on the Irish firm’s current management team remaining in place.

Yesterday, PetroNeft cancelled a restriction notice it had issued — which could have blocked Natlata voting at the pending EGM — after receiving responses from Natlata to queries regarding certain information about its shareholding.

Natlata — a privately-owned investment company that invests in distressed or early-stage assets in the Russian region — welcomed the removal of the restrictions but said the episode only copper-fastened its desire to see its wishes granted.

“I am glad that the current directors of PetroNeft have seen the error of their ways,” said Natlata’s Maxim Korobov, before adding, “an expensive and distracting exercise has been avoided. If the board had any questions about Natlata’s shareholding, rather than try to disenfranchise me, why didn’t the board simply pick up the phone?”

Mr Korobov added: “This latest action clearly shows the board have lost sight of what they should be doing, namely getting oil out of the ground and delivering for all stakeholders.

“If ever another sign was needed that change is so desperately required at the top of PetroNeft, the board themselves have just reminded us.”

Elsewhere, Petroceltic — the heavily indebted Dublin-based explorer which has effectively been propped up of late by a series of repayment waivers from its lenders — has recommended its shareholders back a £6.5m (€8.1m) takeover offer from independent investor, Worldview Capital Management.

Worldview — via its Sunny Hill offshoot — recently sold nearly half of the 69% of Petroceltic debt it owned to private equity firm Elbrus Capital.

An interim examiner was appointed to Petroceltic last month and the firm is set to enter a full examinership process tomorrow.

In a letter to shareholders, Petroceltic chairman Robert Adair yesterday said it is “unlikely” this process will lead to an alternative offer for the company and that the board sees the Sunny Hill/Worldview offer as representing “the best possible opportunity for shareholders to realise any value from their holding of ordinary shares.”

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