Worldview in the boxseat at Petroceltic after buying its debt

Move comes days after interim examiner appointed to troubled exploration firm

Brian O’Cathain, chief executive of Petroceltic Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Brian O’Cathain, chief executive of Petroceltic Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Worldview Capital, the dissident shareholder in Petroceltic International that has battled its board for more than a year, has emerged in prime position to gain control of the troubled exploration company after doing a deal with its banks to buy a majority of its $232 million debts.

The Cayman Islands-registered fund, run by former investment banker Angelo Moskov, has told the stock market it bought has 69.44 per cent of the senior debt at at “a significant discount to face value”.

Mr Moskov last week told The Irish Times the banks were offering the debt for sale at a discount of up to 70 per cent, although it is unclear if it acquired it at such a price.

Worldview is now in a strong position to take control of Petroceltic, which is unable to pay its debts secured on its exploration and production assets.

An interim examiner, Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton, was appointed to Petroceltic in recent days. The company’s prime asset is a gas field in Algeria, the future of which will be central to the examinership, while it is certainly coveted by Worldview.

Worldview said it “intends to approach Petroceltic and the interim examiner with a proposal to restructure the Senior Bank Facility, as part of a wider restructuring of Petroceltic’s capital structure either pursuant to an examinership scheme of arrangement or as a standalone restructuring”.

It said this could lead to “the potential conversion of a significant proportion of the outstanding debt into new ordinary shares in the capital of Petroceltic”.

As the largest shareholder with 29 per cent, and now the largest debt holder, the examiner will not be able to construct any rescue deal for Petroceltic that does not have the imprimatur of Worldview.

Indeed, it is likely that if Worldview puts forward a proposal to take control of the company itself, it would be in a strong position to push it through. There remains the outside chance that another bidder could trump Worldview, but this would involved paying off the debts in full.

As the controller of an entire class of debt, Worldview is in a strong position in the examinership process. It is unknown, however, what intra-bank voting rules were placed on the debt by the consortium of lenders that sold the loans to Worldview.

Petroceltic was unavailable for comment last night.