TROUBLED oil and gas firm Bowleven has been plunged into fresh turmoil after activist investor Crown Ocean Capital launched a new bid to oust chairman Billy Allan.
Monaco-based Crown Ocean, the biggest shareholder in Bowleven with a 22 per cent stake, has requisitioned a second general meeting of the company at which it will again ask shareholders to vote in favour of Mr Allan’s removal.
The move comes after Mr Allan survived a vote on his position at a general meeting in Edinburgh this week, when a Crown Ocean resolution calling for his removal failed to garner sufficient shareholder support.
However the investment company, owned by German financiers Christian Petersmann and Konstantin Stoyanov, secured shareholder support for several other resolutions which called for five other directors to be axed, including chief executive Kevin Hart and finance director Kerry Crawford, from the board. It was also successful in placing lawyer Christopher Ashworth and turnaround expert Elin Chahin on to the board.
In spite of this week’s votes Mr Hart remains in post as chief executive, without a seat on the board, with Ms Crawford also remaining in her role. But a source familiar with the matter said Mr Hart was likely to leave his post in the near future.
Chief operating officer David Clarkson, who was not subject to a resolution from Crown Ocean on his position this week, also remains in post. John Martin, Tim Sullivan and Philip Tracy ceased to be non-executive directors of the firm following the meeting on Wednesday.
In a statement issued to the stock market yesterday, Crown Ocean said it had requisitioned a second general meeting with the purpose of removing Mr Allan as chairman. It is also seeking to place two further independent directors, Julien Balkany and Didier Lechartier, on to the board.
The investment firm said: “Crown Ocean regrets that it is necessary to call another General Meeting, but it has become clear since 14 March 2017 that the incumbent chairman is reluctant to accept the verdict of shareholders or to recognise that it is no longer appropriate for current executives to continue to hold their pre-existing executive roles.
“Crown Ocean implores the Chairman, Mr Allan, to step down as a director now to avoid further unnecessary waste of Bowleven’s resources.”
Calls were made to Bowleven’s office in Edinburgh requesting to speak to Mr Allan and Mr Hart. The calls were not returned.
However Bowleven signalled that a further general meeting will be held. It said in a statement to the stock market last night: “The Board of Bowleven acknowledges receipt of a request for a General Meeting and the submission of proposed ordinary resolutions from Crown Ocean Capital P1 Limited.”
It added: “A detailed response will be provided prior to the General Meeting.”
Crown Ocean, which has been steadily upping its holding in Bowleven since the start of the year, wants to put a radical new strategy in place at the company, having voiced fierce criticism of its financial performance. It has called for Bowleven to be turned into a holding company able to return excess cash to shareholders, and to focus on its 20 per cent interest in Cameroon’s Etinde permit.
As the war of words intensified in the days leading up to this week’s meeting, the board under its previous make-up at Bowleven defended its record. It claimed Crown Ocean wanted to turn the company into cash machine for its own benefit and argued that the investment company lacked a strategy to maximise the Etinde asset.
Bowleven has around $95 million (£77m) cash and interests in the Etinde and Bomono licences in Cameroon.
Shares in Bowleven closed up nearly four per cent at 35.5p.
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