Billionaire Returns to the Iraqi Oil Game With New IPO
|May 24, 2013||Filled under Iraq Daily News|
After five years, Jean Claude Gandur is back in the game. The Swiss billionaire made the bulk of his $2.1 billion fortune (as of Forbes’ last count) selling publicly traded Addax Petroleum to Sinopec in 2008 for $7.2 billion. And this week he finally returned to the public markets, bringing in $250 million through the initial public offering of 17% of the company’s shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Debuting at C$15, shares in OXC currently trade at $14.50.
Like Addax was before it, Oryx is named after a noble African relative of the antelope with grand horns. Like Addax, Oryx will be focused on exploring for oil in west Africa and Iraqi Kurdistan. And little has changed from the Addax days as it concerns Gandur’s legendary gift of forging political and business connections in complicated parts of the world. The son of a Swiss pediatrician, Gandur, 64, grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, became and oil trader in the 1970s and by the 1990s had made such keeconnections in west Africa that he had been dubbed Commander of the National Order in Benin, has a diplomatic passport from Senegal, and for a decade was honorary consul in Geneva for Republic of Congo. He still is deeply invested in Africa, operating a fuel distribution network under the Oryx brand (but unaffiliated with the newly public company) as well as Addax Bioenergy, a biofuels operation in Sierra Leone.
But whether Gandur can orchestrate a repeat of Addax’s great success is yet to be seen. When Addax was sold to Sinopec it was generating roughly $300 million a year in net income on sales of 140,000 barrels of oil per day. Oryx, on the other hand, has no revenues at all. Yet Gandur is so confident about its opportunities that he has, through his majority controlled holding company AOG, injected $700 million into Oryx to acquire prospects and start drilling wells. No oil and gas is flowing yet, but if all goes well in Iraq, Oryx states in its prospectus that it could be handling as much as 300,000 bpd of oil within five years.
The key asset behind Oryx now is the Demir Dagh field in the Hawler block of the Kurdish region of Iraq. A discovery well was initially drilled there back in 1960, then another in 1990. Oryx last year invested roughly $50 million to drill its first hole in Demir Dagh. As a result they figure the field contains about 500 million barrels in several geologic intervals. According to an analyst by Tudor, Pickering & Holt, the Demir Dagh field might be so big that it connects to another field to the west called Banan. Oryx expects to learn more when it drills Banan this year. (See and excellent map of all the Kurdish oil and gas concessions here.) In an optimistic scenario laid out in the Oryx prospectus, Demir Dagh has the potential to give up 215,000 bpd of oil by 2017, with the entire Hawler block (65% Oryx interest) producing more than 300,000 bpd by 2018.
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