Saturday 29 November 2014

FitzPatrick may clear debts with Nigeria oil deal

Midway Resources seeks buyout at €1.3bn field

Nick Webb, Business Editor

Published 20/04/2014 | 02:30

RELIEF: Sean FitzPatrick leaves the court a free man last week.
RELIEF: Sean FitzPatrick leaves the court a free man last week.

A POTENTIAL €1.3bn Nigerian oilfield project backed by former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick may help clear the bankrupt banker's €110m debts if it is sold to a rival oil firm.

Cayman Islands-based oil group Midway Resources International has indicated that it is trying to buy into the Nigerian Ekeh oil field, which is owned by a consortium that includes FitzPatrick.

An "acquisition is currently under negotiation," according to the company. Midway Resources CEO Peter Worthington did not comment when approached by the Sunday Independent last week.

The owner of the Ekeh field is a company called Movido Exploration, whose shareholders include Sean FitzPatrick, the former non-executive chairman of Anglo Irish Bank.

The other shareholders in the scheme are former Anglo director and ex-Dublin Docklands Development chairman Lar Bradshaw, oil engineer Jim O'Driscoll and a group of Nigerian business people and former military personnel. These include a former vice-admiral in the Nigerian navy, Victor Ombu. FitzPatrick, Bradshaw and O'Driscoll are believed to own about 39 per cent of Movido Exploration.

FitzPatrick's stake in Movido exploration is now held by his bankruptcy assignee. The Movido equity is potentially worth hundreds of millions and could be used to clear the banker's debts.

FitzPatrick was declared bankrupt in July 2010, with debts of €110m to Anglo. He had invested in a large number of schemes, including a chunk of the Fisherman's Wharf casino in Macau, a Hungarian golf resort, a US hospital operator, and property in Dublin and Central Europe.

Movido advisers initially estimated that the Ekeh field could contain about 10 millions barrels of oil, worth around €700m in 2005.

However, these valuations were ratcheted up considerably, with IBRC later estimating that the field could hold as much as 18 million barrels of oil. Based on oil prices of $100 per barrel, this could push the value of the field up to €1.3bn before costs.

FitzPatrick is understood to have initially invested $12m in the Ekeh project back in 2005, although this figure is thought to have risen to as much as $40m – borrowed from Anglo – as costs related to the scheme spiralled.

However, building the necessary infrastructure and the other costs of producing the oil are also likely to run into the hundreds of millions.

Initial estimates that the project would cost $100m are likely to have risen sharply. Last year, the Sunday Independent revealed that talks had taken place between Movido and an African private equity group about a possible funding package. Discussions were also held with the World Bank about financing infrastructure

However, the sudden liquidation of IBRC last year derailed these discussions. KMPG, which was appointed as special liquidator to IBRC, has been selling off loan books to investors over the last year.

KPMG declined to discuss the Ekeh loans. "No comment on this. The bank and special liquidator have a duty of confidentiality to current and former customers," according to a spokesman.

Last week, Sean FitzPatrick was cleared of all charges relating to the Maple 10 share-buying scheme.

His co-accused, Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer, were found guilty on 10 counts of providing illegal loans to the Maple 10 investors. They face up to five years in prison.

Sunday Indo Business

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