Friday 19 January 2018

Tycoon McKeon targets £3m for Irish-focused oil and gas explorer

Ardilaun Energy looks to raise funds to help propel it towards eventual US listing, writes Gavin McLoughlin
McKeon was among the founders of Circle Oil, which was put into administration in the UK at the beginning of the year (Stock photo)
McKeon was among the founders of Circle Oil, which was put into administration in the UK at the beginning of the year (Stock photo)
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

John McKeon, the co-founder of bust Circle Oil, has made a pitch to potential investors seeking to raise £3m for an oil and gas explorer focused on offshore Ireland.

McKeon, the founder and chairman of Dublin-based Ardilaun Energy, has sought to raise the capital via a private placing. He was unavailable for comment when the Sunday Independent contacted Ardilaun.

"Ardilaun is in the process of acquiring substantial interests in prime offshore acreage along the Atlantic Margin of Ireland and in the North Celtic Sea," the company's website states.

"Ardilaun will (subject to completion and regulatory approvals) operate four offshore exploration licences...and hold material interests in producing or proven gas fields in the North Celtic Sea basin.

"Our management team has designed a substantial work programme for the Irish portfolio to include the acquisition of 2D and 3D seismic data and the drilling of exploration wells," the website says.

The Sunday Independent has learned McKeon has told would-be investors that the money would help propel the company toward an eventual stock market listing in the US. He cited Providence Resources raising $70m of equity last year as indication of an investor appetite for offshore Ireland.

McKeon was among the founders of Circle Oil, which was put into administration in the UK at the beginning of the year.

Its shares had been suspended since June, with the Middle East and North Africa focused company in serious financial difficulty.

In March of last year a strategic review examining the possibility of a potential sale or capital raise was commenced. The process concluded with the company being wound down and its assets sold.

"The Group has suffered significant financial difficulties for some time in circumstances where the resource available to the Company under its borrowing facilities was reducing, compounded by the declining production profile from a maturing asset base ... and the continued low oil price environment," the company said as it was being wound up, with no value attributable to shareholders.

McKeon had left an executive role at Circle in 2008 and has been involved in a number of other exploration companies.

Separately, Aim-listed explorer Faroe Petroleum has announced it has farmed out an interest in an exploration block 15km from the Corrib gas field to Nexen, a subsidiary of one of China's biggest oil companies. Faroe told the market it "sees considerable exploration potential" in the block.

"Under the terms of the farm-out agreement, upon completion which is also subject to regulatory consent, Nexen will take over operatorship of this licence and an 80pc working interest (Faroe 20pc) and in return will meet the full costs of the associated work programme including any acquisition of seismic data".

If an exploration well is drilled, Nexen will take the costs of that also.

Predator Oil & Gas Ventures, chaired by former Fastnet Oil & Gas managing director Paul Griffiths, operates another block nearby.

Sunday Indo Business

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