Business Irish

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Petroneft strips its critics of EGM vote

An engineer works on a PetroNeft pipeline in Siberia.
An engineer works on a PetroNeft pipeline in Siberia.
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The row between Irish oil explorer Petroneft and its biggest shareholder has escalated after a move by management that could block Russian-owned Natlata from voting at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM).

Natlata says it has received a Restriction Notice from the company ahead of the vote, which if it is allowed to stand, will block the 29.47c shareholder from voting on its own motions at the EGM.

Natlata Partners called the meeting for April 18, where it is seeking a vote to have Petroneft's management removed. But it could be blocked from voting itself, if the board carries through on the threat.

Natlata owner Maxim Korobov is a long-standing critic of Petroneft's board.

He described the move as "a blatant and desperate attempt for the directors to deflect attention away from their chronic underperformance".

The Restriction Notice will come into force on April 14.

Petroneft issued the restriction on the basis that Natlata had failed to respond on time to a request for information about it beneficial ownership.

Natlata says its ownership was already known, and that it only recieved the request for clarification by letter and email after the seven day deadline to respond had expired.

Lawyers for Maxim Korobov are understood to have written to the company to say the initial reaction to the request, which they say was received by email on April 1, was that it was "an April fool" joke.

They accused Petroneft of "attempting to disenfranchise its largest shareholder."

In a statement issued to all shareholders yestreday Petroneft's board confirmed that it issued restriction notices to two shareholders, Natlata and General Invest - which owns 10.70pc of the company.

They face being stripped of voting rights for failing to respond to requests for information about their ownership, Petroneft said.

The move appears to suggest that management thinks the two investors may be acting in concert or are related parties, which would have to be declared to the market.

"The company's investigations into the holdings of Natlata, General Invest and associated nominee companies continued throughout 2015 and into 2016, and included dialogue with advisors and regulators which is ongoing," the board said.

Natlata says it has no interests in Petroneft beyond its declared holding. Its lawyers are understood to have demanded that the Withdrawl Notice issued on April 1 be cancelled.

Irish Independent

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