Pakistan Holds Key to Tullow Shares Gusher
Byline: MICHAEL WALTERS
EVERY so often, they return to haunt me. Some angry company director or investor almost threatens to thump me. They still remember an audio tape issued a while back to publicise one of my investment books.
On it, they accuse, I suggest steering clear of certain stocks - anything from Australia or Ireland, I think it was, especially if connected with natural resources far across the sea. Such pearls of wisdom. File under `We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .'
And yet. . . .here we go, breaking the rules. After at least 18 months of popping the phone into my desk drawer while well-informed chums droned on about the merits of Tullow Oil, the time has come to start listening.
Carefully, of course, acknowledging that too many tiny Irish oil resource companies have disapppointed, and must be treated with the utmost caution at all times. Tullow, though, has been around since 1985, has a market value of [pounds sterling]151m, and has been operating sucessfully in several countries, often with pretty heavweight partners. That does not mean it has ousted all of the speculative demons. But it deserves to be taken much more seriously than the average Irish resource stock.
Everyone says Aidan Heavey is a lovely fella, a smooth Irish charmer. He is managing director of Tullow, and the driving force. More an accountant and deal-doer than oil man, he put together the team which effectively makes up Tullow, gathering up geological aces from Britoil when BP took that company over.
They appear to have done remarkably well in winning exploration rights around the world. Operating on a shoe-string by international oil standards, they have assembled a heavyweight portfolio which looks substantially undervalued.
Heavey, it seems, has been wooed by several big name companies, with British Gas and Atlantic Richfield reported to be among them. While he holds only 3.7pc of the equity himself (Enterprise Oil has 3.8pc), he has strong support among shareholders. And he is anxious not to be forced to accept a bid which substantially undervalues the potential in Tullow's acreage.
To that end, he issued $10m of convertible loan notes earlier this year to raise cash to accelerate the drilling of wells on Tullow acreage, eager to prove what Tullow might have as quickly as possible. A new drilling programme is to begin in Pakistan this month.
The company started with a joint venture in Senegal, where the infrastructure had fallen apart after international oil companies had left. …