Saturday 24 March 2018

Petroceltic wins backing from High Court in website dispute

High Court has ordered the deletion of blogsite
High Court has ordered the deletion of blogsite

Paul O'Donoghue

The High Court has backed Petroceltic in a row over a website that had made allegations about the oil and gas explorer.

In a statement, Petroceltic said the court has ordered the deletion of the "blogsite and prevented the further publication of material posted by the blogger, finding, prima facie, that the material on the blog is defamatory of Petroceltic".

The court also ordered that the company that hosted the website name the person responsible for making the allegations.

Petroceltic had said that a series of online allegations made about the company were "entirely baseless" after its largest shareholder, Worldview, published an open letter seeking a response to the claims.

Petroceltic had taken legal proceedings with a view to establishing the identity of the owner of a website employing the Wordpress management system after a number of claims "were anonymously published about its flagship project in Algeria".

Petroceltic said that the allegations are untrue and has filed legal proceedings against Aut O'Mattic A8C Ireland - the Irish arm of Wordpress owner Automattic.

Yesterday, Worldview, a Swiss hedge fund which holds a 29pc stake in Petroceltic, said that it was concerned that the claims suggest that shareholder value may have been compromised.

It asked for clarification on a number of issues raised by the blog, which made a series of serious allegations against Petroceltic and members of its management team.

The Dublin-based firm said yesterday that once it became aware of the claims it immediately "instigated an investigation in accordance with established procedures".

Petroceltic said that on the basis of the investigation it has conducted to date, "the company considers the allegations to be entirely baseless, untrue and defamatory".

"If no such evidence [of wrongdoing] is forthcoming, the company will take appropriate legal action against any party who has made or repeats such defamatory statements in order to protect the good name and reputation of Petroceltic, its staff and consultants."

The Ain Tsila project is the company's flagship asset, a major gas field in Algeria on which Petroceltic is leading development.

Meanwhile, it is understood that the member of staff who was heading up the project recently decided to leave the company. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the individual's departure is related in any way to the allegations made against Petroceltic.

It is understood Petroceltic's involvement on the Ain Tsila project is to be headed up by a new internally appointed employee, who is set to take up the role shortly.

The project has been at the centre of a dispute between Petroceltic and Worldview. The hedge fund has called a shareholders' meeting next month to limit the Irish firms' ability to dispose of assets above a certain value and to register its opposition to a bond issue planned by Petroceltic's board to help fund the Ain Tsila project.

Worldview and Petroceltic have clashed a number of times over the past year, Worldview blocked a number of resolutions at the company's AGM last month and has filed legal proceedings against Petroceltic, alleging that the company failed to undertake a required review of its operations. Petroceltic has denied the allegations and vowed to fight the court case.

Irish Independent

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