Tullow Oil founder considers comeback

Cantillon: Aidan Heavey is dipping his toes into the exploration business again

Aidan Heavey speaking at a Tullow Oil annual general meeting in 2015. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Aidan Heavey speaking at a Tullow Oil annual general meeting in 2015. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A year since stepping down as chairman of Tullow Oil, Irishman Aidan Heavey appears to be plotting a return to the world of oil and gas exploration.

The 66-year-old Tullow Oil founder is reportedly eyeing up new opportunities in west Africa, having last year left the company he established some 33 years ago.

According to African Energy Intelligence, a respected trade newsletter, the industry veteran has partnered with his former Tullow colleague Tom Hickey to drive forward the new project. Backing of $1 billion is reported to be coming from US private equity giant the Carlyle Group.

Heavey started out buying assets that bigger players were selling off or had lost interest in and grew Tullow into a FTSE 100 company. What began as a small gas producer in Senegal grew to a company with operations, at one time or another, in 45 countries around the world, including 20 in Africa.

And now he appears to be gearing up to cut across Tullow’s turf, although the various parties are keeping mum on the deal for now.

Unloved assets

If an agreement between Heavey and Carlyle does materialise, he’ll likely be looking to pick up licences that Tullow is also eyeing. Even with the financial clout of Carlyle, Heavey appears set to target the unloved assets that the oil majors want off their books.

Heavey’s departure from Tullow came a year earlier than expected and at a time when the company’s share price was well off the record high it set in 2012.

It’s not clear why Heavey is dipping his toes into the exploration business again. In a 2007 interview with The Irish Times, he indicated that Tullow would be his career swansong.

“When I bow out of Tullow, and I will, I don’t think I’ll stay in the oil industry. That will be the end of me,” he said.

He’s clearly had a change of heart.