Frank Timis hopes his London based firm, African Petroleum (not any relationship with the Nigerian company of the same name), will have the best portfolio in West Africa, “better than Tullow Oil, better than any of the giants,” within the next six months.
He has raised up to at least $200million to list the company, the vehicle with which he hopes to exploit resources in deepwater Liberia and Sierra Leone.
African Petroleum owns the rights to two deepwater blocks in the two countries. The founder expects the company to acquire several other big blocks soon. And whereas the company has yet to drill a well, the Romanian born millionaire is confident of imminent fortune. “If even two of our seven or eight blocks work, we will be a $20 billion company overnight,” he told the Times of London.
There’s some data available to give people like Timis enough courage to take money from others and invest it in acreages in deepwater Liberia and Sierra Leone. In the first deepwater test in the Sierra Leone-Liberian Basin, American independent Anadarko encountered more than 45 net feet of hydrocarbon pay in September 2009. The Venus
B-1 well was drilled to a total depth of approximately 18,500 feet in about 5,900 feet of water i in block SL 6107 offshore Sierra Leone. Anardako said the Venus prospect is one of its “more than 30 identified prospects and leads on its West Africa acreage position, which includes interests in almost 8 million acres across 10 blocks offshore Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana”. The company said that with Jubilee on the east (Ghana) and Venus on the west (Sierra Leone), with Liberia in between, it has “ established bookends spanning approximately 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) across two of the most exciting and highly prospective basins in the world”.
That’s the kind of claim that could draw investors to African Petroleum. But there are problems.
The former head of Regal Petroleum, which was handed the largest ever fine by the Alternative Investment Market in London, is having an issue with the management of the London Stock Exchange, which has halted the flotation of the company, because of concerns about Timis’ controversial past.
Officials at the stock exchange told Timis’s advisers in December 2009 that the float could not go ahead if he had a position on the board. Their decision was based on his role at Regal Petroleum, an oil firm whose share price collapsed in 2005 after it emerged that its giant oilfields were unviable. Timis was chief executive at the time.
Investors lost millions of dollars after investing in Regal. The company produced a series of misleading announcements between January and April 2004 relating to a failed Greek oil well that led to a fine of $l million on November 17, 2009.
The new company, Africa Petroleum, will include assets off the Liberian coast that have been the target of a reverse takeover by Indonesia-focused Sound Oil, which had its shares suspended in October.
Mirabaud Securities was advising on the AIM listing, which should have taken place before Christmas 2009. But the London Stock Exchange wants Mr. Timis’ name out of the company’s board before it can allow the floatation. If London doesn’t want him, he told the Times of London, he will go elsewhere, perhaps to Toronto or Hong Kong. “London’s not the only exchange,” he said, before adding with a laugh. “I may buy one in Africa,” the newspaper reported.