LONDON Nov 26 Shareholders in UK shale
developer Dart Energy backed a boardoom coup this week,
voting out the chairman and his allies despite his warning that
the move was an attempt to acquire the company on the cheap.
New Hope Coal, leader of the coup, cited years of poor
The move comes amid intense investor scrutiny of Britain's
shale oil and gas drilling scene. Britain is seen as a European
test bed for the controversial extraction practice of hydraulic
fracturing, or fracking.
The ousting of chairman Nicholas Davies and his allies also
comes while Australian-listed Dart, one of a handful of bets on
a successful UK shale industry, aims to close a cooperation deal
with GDF-Suez under which the French utility would
provide cash and funding.
GDF Suez plans to pay Dart Energy $12 million in cash
upfront and fund $27 million in exploration and appraisal costs
in exchange for a 25 percent share of 13 UK onshore licences in
the Bowland shale across northwest and central England.
The transaction, announced in October, is expected to be
completed by year-end.
A statement announcing Davies' resignation and his
replacement by Robert Neale, the managing director of 16 percent
shareholder New Hope Coal, made no reference to the future of
the GDF deal.
However, a Nov 19 letter from Davies to shareholders urging
them to reject the coup on Nov 19 warned: "It should come as no
surprise to you if I told you that the international oil and gas
majors who we are negotiating with in the UK were bewildered by
New Hope's tactics."
A letter from New Hope on the same day outlined how Dart's
market value had shrunk over the past three years. "Without
change at the board level of Dart Energy, New Hope fears that
the history of poor financial performance will continue," it
Dart's chief executive, John McGoldrick, did not immediately
respond to emailed questions about the aims of the new board or
the future of the GDF deal.
Dart is one of three significant projects betting that,
with help from government incentives, they will produce
commercial amounts of oil and gas from Britain's shales and that
fierce local and environmental opposition to fracking will not
derail their plans.
The second group is IGas Energy, 21 percent owned
by Canadian group Nexen, which has been part of China's CNOOC
since earlier this year.
The third is Cuadrilla, a privately owned business backed by
a fund that is partly owned by former BP CEO John Browne, in
partnership with British utility Centrica.