Business Irish

Thursday 21 June 2018

Petroneft investor lashes out at firm

An engineer works on the Siberia-focused, oil-production company PetroNeft pipeline.
An engineer works on the Siberia-focused, oil-production company PetroNeft pipeline.
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Activist investor Natlata Partners has insisted that claims made by the board of Irish exploration firm Petroneft in a circular to shareholders "do not stand up to any sort of examination".

Petroneft will hold an EGM, convened by Natlata, next week at which shareholders will vote on a number of resolutions including the removal of four current directors of the Irish firm.

Natlata owner, businessman and former politician Maxim Korobov, is a long-standing critic of Petroneft's board.

Petroneft recently urged its shareholders to vote against all of Natlata's resolutions at the upcoming EGM, which include the appointment of three new directors: Anthony Sacca; David Sturt; and Maxim Korobov.

Natlata is also looking for the removal of four current directors: chief executive Dennis Francis; David Sanders; Paul Dowling; and David Golder.

The Petroneft board has claimed Natlata, which owns just under 30pc of Petroneft, is seeking to get control of the board without having to pay the shareholders a fair price for obtaining the company.

Maxim Korobov has denied that. Petroneft also took steps to prevent Natlata from voting at the EGM. Natlata and another investor faced being stripped of voting rights for failing to respond to requests for information about their ownership, according to Petroneft, which later cancelled the restriction notice.

And in a fresh circular yesterday, Natlata sought to dismiss claims that have been made by Petroneft in advance of the EGM.

It has insisted that the Petroneft board will become "independent" if its resolutions are passed next week, and that there will be just one Natlata nominee: Maxim Korobov.

"That is not control by any definition," claimed Natlata. It also responded to criticism that it has not put provided sufficient disclosure regarding its plans for the Irish company.

"Natlata has said on a number of occasions that the overriding priority should be to find out what has gone wrong with the company," it told shareholders. "Currently we are not in a position to outline a detailed growth and development strategy as our only information about the company is from publicly available sources."

Petroneft has said it has met a number of times with representatives of Natlata since the EGM proposal was made, with a view to reaching an arrangement that is in the interest of Petroneft and its shareholders.

Natlata claimed Petroneft had been "using every excuse to play for time".

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