Ernst & Young Entrepeneur of the Year international finalists
Four more nominees in the international category of the Ernst Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, in association with 'The Irish Times', Enterprise Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and Newstalk, are profiled today
Cove Energy plc International Category
JOHN CRAVEN is CEO of Cove Energy plc (Cove), a Dublin-based company involved in joint-venture oil and gas exploration with a specific focus on the emerging basins of East Africa.
Cove was established in 2009 when Craven, and a group of like-minded investors, took control of a listed mining “shell” and implemented a new strategy to create value through acquiring oil and gas exploration and appraisal assets in geologically promising areas.
A respected petroleum geologist, Craven had previously founded Petroceltic International plc and he set a strategy for Cove to be an opportunity-driven business that targeted assets in areas where larger oil companies were not yet active or had overlooked opportunities, particularly focusing on capturing value through exploration and appraisal.
Cove began by entering into a joint venture in Mozambique where it drilled and identified the largest gas field to be discovered worldwide in the past 10 years. Plans are afoot to build large plants to ship the gas abroad in its liquefied, natural form.
In addition to its two separate gas discovery areas in Mozambique, the company holds almost 10.5 million acres of deepwater exploration interests off the coast of Kenya, where promising 3D seismic results have been produced and two wells are planned for Q1 2013, as well as the Mnazi Bay Gas Field in Tanzania which is currently under sale to Wentworth Resources.
To fund the significant drilling and seismic costs involved in such high-risk and costly endeavours, Cove has raised about £180 million from public markets over the past three years, and today holds a market cap of some £1.4 billion – more than eight times the capital invested.
In keeping with the company’s strategy, the board of directors put Cove up for sale earlier this year and offers of up to £2.40 per share from Shell and the National Oil Company of Thailand are being considered.
The group currently has no debt. It has unrestricted cash reserves of £60 million and is confident that it is fully funded for exploration and appraisal programmes into 2013.
Whilst the global economic environment is undoubtedly challenging, Cove’s successful equity placings throughout 2009 and 2010 and debt-free status ensured the firm maintained a strong balance sheet into 2012. Going forward, Cove intends to complete the sale process which started at the beginning of the year, but until this time it is business as usual.
The identification, exploration and discovery of petroleum, with a current focus on the young and emerging oil and gas basins off the coast of East Africa.
Cove Energy matures its discoveries into marketable opportunities for medium and large-scale oil and utility companies.
What prompted you to start the business?
“Having worked for big oil companies such as Gulf and Chevron, who are generally risk averse, I felt could apply my petroleum geology skills to starting a new oil and gas company focused on exploration.”
What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
“Selecting the right board, sourcing the right opportunity, raising equity capital in what were, in 2009, adverse economic circumstances; overcome by the right contacts, trust and intuition.”
SHANE LEAHY is the CEO of Oxygen8, a global provider of integrated mobile solutions based in Birmingham, UK.
Comprising three distinct divisions, Oxygen8 was established in 2000 to develop specific mobile services that enable businesses to drive new revenue streams, improve customer communication, build brand awareness and increase customer loyalty.
Oxygen8 Corporate Solutions offers a range of innovative and dynamic mobile solutions services that connect corporations with their customers through automated multi-channel communications such as messaging, e-mail, voice, social networking, and other mobile media.
The Oxygen8 Mobile Payment division develops and supports innovative payment mechanisms that allow consumers to pay for goods and services using their mobile phone. Oxygen8 Money was recently launched as a standalone division within the group to capitalise on the phenomenal worldwide growth in “mobile wallets” and to provide solutions for mobile money transfer with the aim of becoming a leading global solution provider.