Business World

Friday 22 September 2017

Firm is desperately trying to stay ahead – but it's a struggle

WHO would run a public company? That question came to mind during Circle Oil's annual general meeting.

Circle is looking for oil and gas primarily in North Africa and while it is now producing oil and making money, the share price has remained low and some investors aren't happy.

The weak share price – it is down more than 50pc since February 2011 – hung like a cloud over yesterday's meeting.

Company chairman Thomas Anderson said the firm was being priced as an oil producer rather than an explorer, and seeing as Circle produce relatively small quantities of the black stuff the company's value was lower than it perhaps should be.

Clearly that explanation has not convinced some. Two investors – Audley Capital Advisors and Matterhorn Investment Management – are believed to have voted against the re-election of Keith Morris to the board, while Mr Anderson surprised the meeting by retiring even though he was on the ballot for re-election.

Chief executive Professor Chris Green cut a distracted figure throughout the meeting, even as he acknowledged the various problems the company has faced in recent years.

The Arab Spring has been a "disaster" for the company, said Mr Anderson. It is hard to argue the point.

In the last two years, the energy ministers in Tunisa and Egypt have changed a total of nine times, throwing the company's plans into disarray with alarming regularity. Just to top it off, Libya's national oil company is Circle's biggest shareholder with 17.75pc of the company. That holding has been frozen since March 2011.

This is a company desperately trying to stay ahead of things. It's struggling.

Peter Flanagan

Irish Independent

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