Regal’s Ukrainian unknown

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August 9: Now we know who is behind Alberry, the British Virgin Islands company which has struck a bizarre deal to help Regal Petroleum secure its Ukrainian assets. Not that we are much the wiser.

This morning I wrote that Regal Petroleum had sold this unknown company 15 per cent of its Ukrainian operations for £100,000. Alberry would take charge of trying to sort out the legal row over who exactly owns Regal’s Ukrainian assets and if it could do so in Regal’s favour, the company would buy back Alberry’s stake for $51m. If Alberry failed, Regal would still buy back its shares, but for £50,000. Who was behind Alberry was anybody’s guess.

Regal now says Alberry is owned by Dmytro Gelfendbeyn, which only helps a little bit. Not one of the several Ukrainian and Russian experts we employ has heard of him. Regal says Gelfendbeyn has “an extensive knowledge of the oil and gas industry”, with over ten years’ experience working for gas trading companies in Ukraine. Analysts say Regal’s money will have been well spent if Gelfendbeyn can sort out the Ukrainian mess.

It is a safe bet that we will be doing yet more on BP’s decision to close its Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska. The company gave investors more details of its plan on a call late on Tuesday. There is also an update on BP’s website. Sean Broderick, in his Red Hot Resources blog, thinks the problem may be bigger than it appears and that the Trans-Alaskan pipeline could be at risk as well. He also explains nice and simply why the corrosion occurs. Christopher Westley, an economics professor at Jacksonville State University, partly blames the US government for favouring BP which, he says, diminished its incentive to take care (”Many are saying the BP must actually stand for ‘Big Problem’,” he also says).

A blogger called Derek on the Here’s What I Think website writes: “The same corrosion issue is present in all the mature oil fields. This is probably the first time we’ve seen it on the front pages. A lot of piping is going to be replaced here. I think the Middle East fields have the same problems with rising water content and associated corrosion problems, but we haven’t heard of them taking a major production field offline for repair. That would send shudders through the markets and cast a doubt on the oil infrastructure. That’s the reason we won’t hear anything until something major occurs. Just a matter of time.” I’ve no idea who Derek is or if he knows what he’s talking about, but what he says is interesting, and it fits with what Broderick wrote in his blog.

ITV says it expects its net advertising revenues to fall by 14 per cent for the three months to September, confirming the weak advertising market which accelerated Charles Allen’s departure as the broadcaster’s chief executive. The shares are up nearly 3 per cent. Among the bloggers, Jason Burrows says on the Soda blog: “I suggest whomever they get to replace the unfortunate Mr Allen should perhaps come from outside the television industry. Surely there’s someone senior over at Google who could parachute in and turn the whole things round.” Lex says improvements at ITV1 are unlikely before next year at best.

We plan to write more about Tesco becoming Britain’s largest non-food retailer. Stand by for the predictable outcry from those who forget that Tesco does not force shoppers to buy cheap goods in their stores at times and places that many find convenient.

Other news: good but expected first-half figures from Aviva; Enodis shares off 17½ per cent after Manitowoc broke off takeover talks.

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