Cantillon: is Tony O’Reilly jnr set for another roll of the dice?

Chief executive of Providence Resources may seek to raise more than €100m

Tony O’Reilly jnr has less than three weeks to come up with some answers.

Shares in Providence Resources, the oil and gas explorer where O’Reilly (above) is chief executive, have been suspended on the junior Dublin and London markets since mid-April, when it was forced into talks with its main creditor and financial advisers after a court ruling landed it with a bill of over $7 million (€6.2 million).

Since then, there hasn’t been a peep out of the company. That’s save for a favourable technical update and a bunch of impenetrable slides that look like medical scans about its Druid and Drombeg oil exploration prospects, a couple of hundred kilometres off the west coast of Ireland.

The company is obliged under Dublin’s junior market rules to file its annual report by the end of this month. Investors have been waiting patiently for an update on the group’s financial position, and O’Reilly will need to produce a clear plan of action.


Providence's biggest creditor is Melody Capital, a New York-based specialist lender. While Providence said in December Melody had agreed in principle to extend a €15.6 million facility, due in May, by two years, it is not known where this stands. Clarity on this facility is key for a firm that had €11.3 million of cash at the end of last June. That was before London's Court of Appeal ruled it must pay over $7 million to Transocean, following a legal dispute with the Swiss-based offshore drilling company which provided services for Providence's key Barryroe exploration field. (Lansdowne Oil & Gas, a 20 per cent shareholder in the Barryroe project, faces having to share the cost.)

There had been an expectation two months ago that Providence would be a forced seller of a major stake in Barryroe, which was found to be commercially viable in 2012 with an estimated 311 million barrels of recoverable oil.

But could O’Reilly, who has raised $163 million from share sales in the past decade, be preparing another roll of the dice? It was reported in late May the company may seek to raise more than €100 million.

And might luck be on his side? With oil prices up 12 per cent since mid-April to about $50 a barrel, some optimistic investors are now buying financial contracts that will only pay out if the price breaches $100 in the next four years.