Genel tumbles as co-founder Rothschild joins leadership exodus

LONDON (Reuters) - Genel Energy GENL.L co-founder Nathaniel Rothschild quit on Monday in the latest high-profile departure at the loss-making Iraqi Kurdistan oil producer, which will now be dominated by Turkish owners and focused on Turkey's gas market.

FILE PHOTO: British-born financier Nat Rothschild arrives before a Bumi shareholder meeting in London February 21, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

Shares in Genel were down 12 percent at 1517 GMT on news of Rothschild’s move, which follows co-founder Tony Hayward, the former BP chief executive, and chief financial officer Ben Monaghan, also announcing their departures in recent months.

The two co-founders bought and listed Genel on the London Stock Exchange during a global commodity boom in 2011, with plans to make it a major oil explorer in Kurdistan and Africa.

But Genel is now valued at only 275 million pounds, its shares pummelled by two reserve downgrades of its main Taq Taq oil field in Kurdistan, failed exploration campaigns in Africa, political unrest in Iraq and a sharp drop in oil prices since 2014.

The majority of the board of Genel will now be made up of Turkish nationals after the company also announced the exit of non-executive director Simon Lockett on Monday.

Under Chief Executive Murat Ozgul, who took over from Hayward in 2015, Genel is focused on retrieving money it says it is owed by the Kurdistan Regional Government for oil it has sold and on finding a partner to develop two gas fields in the region, with the aim of linking them to neighbouring Turkey.

Genel, whose board includes representative of its two largest shareholders which are both among Turkey’s richest families, is in talks with Turkish state-backed energy firm TEC over developing the Bina Bawi and Miran fields.

“Genel is today really about focusing on monetizing the gas business. That will be a key milestone and catalyst going forward,” said David Round, analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Although a non-executive director, Rothschild was influential as he still owns a stake of around 7.9 percent in Genel, while Hayward remains its 12th-largest shareholder.

Chakib Sbiti, who sat on the board for six years, will also step down at Genel’s annual general meeting on Tuesday, when new Chairman Stephen Whyte will take the helm .

“Today’s news suggests that more substantial changes are afoot, as the ties with the past are broken,” analysts at RBC Capital Markets said.

Editing by Keith Weir and Alexander Smith