Brian O'Cathain, the chief executive of oil explorer Petroceltic International who survived an attempt by Worldview Capital to oust him at a shareholders' meeting in Dublin on Wednesday, has called on the dissident shareholder to end its feud with the company.
Worldview, a Swiss-registered fund with 28 per cent of Petroceltic, had asked shareholders to remove Mr O'Cathain and appoint two of its nominees to the board. It also opposed a motion from the Petroceltic board to appoint two new independent non-executives, Nicholas Gay and Neeve Billis.
About 61 per cent of shareholders voted to retain Mr O'Cathain on the board, while votes to appoint Mr Gay and Mr Billis also passed. Shareholders also rejected Worldview's request to appoint Angelo Moskov, Worldview's founder, and Maurice Dijols to the Petroceltic board.
After the result was announced, Worldview raised queries over the voting process and asked the company that it be allowed inspect the votes, but it said this request was refused.
“Worldview maintains its position and continues to evaluate its options,” it said.
Speaking to The Irish Times following the meeting, Mr O'Cathain said he expects the enlarged board will seek a meeting with Worldview.
“We want to get back to normal. I hope we get them [Worldview] on board,” he said. He also called on Worldview to drop a “frivolous” legal action against Petroceltic in Britain over alleged breach of a 2014 shareholders’ agreement, which the company denies.
Mr O’Cathain confirmed that Petroceltic has made about 25 of its 59 office staff redundant, as part of a drive to reduce overheads by 40 per cent. Cost cutting is a key demand of Worldview.
He also said the company is “in always in discussions with all sorts of parties” in relation to certain of its non-core assets.
“But nothing is advanced enough that there is anything that we yet need to bring to the attention of shareholders,” he said.
Angelo Moskov, the chief executive of Worldview, addressed the meeting in the Royal College of Physicians on Wednesday to plead with shareholders to back his company’s push to change the company’s strategy in relation to developing its prime asset in Algeria.
“Petroceltic produces too little; it is too small to develop Algeria and it is spending its money in the wrong places,” Mr Moskov said.
Petroceltic's chairman, Robert Adair, earlier told shareholders the board believed Worldview wants to gain control of the company cheaply, and that its proposed alternative strategy would damage the value of its assets.
Worldview indicated that it would continue to oppose management’s strategy in relation to developing its prime asset in Algeria, where it wants production speeded up.
There has been renewed speculation in recent weeks that Dragon Oil, which aborted discussions with Petroceltic in December over a possible £500 million takeover bid, may come back in with a new approach.
Worldview’s backing would be required in the event that another takeover bid for Petroceltic were to emerge.