Gowrie-Smith, a sometimes controversial but usually successful corporate player who founded UK drug groups Medeva and SkyePharma and floated Papua New Guinea-focused Rift Oil three years ago, is chairman of Kea, whose three exploration permits in New Zealand’s well established Taranaki and Northlands basins hold an estimated 686 billion cubic feet of gas and 36.5 million barrels of oil. Serial investor Nigel Wray and Mark Knopfler of the band ‘Dire Straits’, who both backed Rift Oil, are among pre-float investors who have put some £7.2 million into Kea since September at 5p a share.
That price compares with a hoped-for 8p for the AIM launch, says executive director David Lees, who says the company intends to start drilling in two months and aims to achieve first sales within a year. RBC Capital Markets is designated nominated adviser and broker to Kea, which struck a deal whereby Canada-based Methanex Corporation will fund one of the wells in exchange for a commercially priced off-take agreement for the gas and a share of development profits.
Lees, like chief executive officer Dr David Bennett a former Rift Oil luminary, argues the Taranaki and Northlands basins are notably more hospitable and better provided with infrastructure than Rift’s PNG prospects. Kea, which hopes to establish a £60 million AIM value with this float, has also applied for some offshore New Zealand licences.
Rift delivered its original AIM backers a three-fold return over four years when Talisman Energy took it over last year, though not all Gowrie-Smith ploys have fared that well. Investors in Kea, one of whose exploration wells is called Beluga, will be hoping for a similarly appetising payback this time.