O’Cathain sees off Worldview in rout

Petroceltic head faces down bid to oust him

Petroceltic's Brian O'Cathain can pat himself on the back for a job well done after comprehensively seeing off a challenge yesterday from activist investor Worldview.

The Swiss-domiciled group, a 28 per cent shareholder in the exploration company, secured the support of less than 11 per cent of shares held by other investors in the group for its motion calling for the chief executive dismissal as a director.

Petroceltic is not out of the woods but it is not alone in facing an uncertain future. The Irish exploration sector is facing more upheaval than at any recent time.

Sector heavyweight Tullow has just reported its worst set of results in recent memory, with even long-time chief Aidan Heavey conceding its coveted place in the FTSE100 was at risk. A historically poor run of results in its exploration programme as well as the falling price of oil has dented the prospects for the African explorer which now finds itself vulnerable to takeover.


Closer to home, Tony O'Reilly's Providence announced a $31 million share placing and rights issue yesterday as it continues to search for a partner with sufficiently deep pockets to unlock the oil its data says lie off the Irish coast in the Barryroe field.

Providence is bullish on its prospects but it has struggled to line up a partner to date. The funding, which is effectively a significant dilution of the position of existing holdings, will at least allow it fund its short-term debt and financing requirements.

Back at Petroceltic, O’Cathain will have little time to rest on his laurels. Worldview was quick to issue a snarky statement in the wake of yesterday’s extraordinary general meeting and has previously indicated it has no intention of walking away from the fight in the face of setbacks.

Meanwhile Dragon, which had tabled an offer worth about £500 million for the Algeria-focused Petroceltic last year, before withdrawing it in December in the wake of falling oil prices has indicated it is once again interested in exploring a possible takeover of the Irish business. As he surveys his options, and the continuing intransigence of Worldview, O'Cathain might well be tempted by a Dragon take- out, even if the price now will be a long way shy of last year's offer.