This teaser, for the “OIL COMPANY THAT HAS OUTPERFORMED EXXON BY 170% IN THE PAST YEAR,” comes from Orbus Investor’s Sam Hopkins.
Orbus Investor is a global investing newsletter that we’ve seen before — they told that that “Cash is Dead” and teased us about Verifone back at the end of March (unchanged so far).
You can get this special report, “Fossil Fuel Time Capsule: How to Profit from Libya’s 39 Billion Barrels of Oil” with a discounted subscription — $199 a year at the moment.
So I guess that gives away the general thrust of this investment idea — it’s all about Libyan oil.
Remember Libya? They used to be one of the major oil exporting states, before what we’ll call Qaddafi’s “evil years” before he became an international statesman (insert here any degree of sarcasm you’re comfortable with).
The U.S. oil majors were pretty active in Libya before those “evil years”, and they were awfully eager to jump back in when Libya re-entered the community of nations near the end of 2003 and it became acceptable for US companies to trade there. So we’re all on the same page with that.
Hopkins asserts that “Libya holds Africa’s top oil reserves, which are even more bountiful than those in Nigeria’s lawless Delta region. For twenty years, Libyan oil just sat there, frozen in diplomatic ice. But since 2004, a western thaw has let one Canadian company heat up with profits, because they were the first on the scene, beating even the majors to the world’s purest remaining onshore hydrocarbon reserves.”
This company has only drilled one hole in Libya, according to Hopkins, but has already shot up by 200% in six months. He says it has “up to 50 promising leads in the same area!”
This company has “1/1000th the market value of ExxonMobil.”
And I always like it when we get some quotes from newspapers and magazines to give extra credence to the newsletter’s hype:
“The New York Times has suggested that Libya possesses ‘enough to meet the daily imports of the United States for eight years.'”
Newsweek: “Libya: Untapped Oil Oasis”
So what other hints do we get about this little Canadian firm that was first into Libya after the 2004 “thaw”?
This company has “won the rights to 6,182 square kilometers of land in Libya’s Ghadames Basin…a proven oil producer.”
They won these rights in competition with all the big oil majors, in an auction that was held in January, 2005.
Their parcel has a “minimum of 25-30 exploration prospects.”
Their properties are “in both Libya and the Bay of Biscay off the shores of France.”
Drilling in Libya began on September 29 last year.
And it’s trading at under $12.
So what is this “remarkable company that outmaneuvered some of the biggest names in the oil business to stake a claim at one of the world’s most promising oil properties?”
Well, a few readers sent in suggestions (some more certain than others) about this company, including one of our earliest and most enthusiastic readers back in the beginning of April — and after double checking I can confirm that this is …
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Verenex Energy (VNX in Canada, VRNXF.PK in the US)
Verenex is indeed a pretty new company, spun off from the Vermillion energy trust a few years ago. They started with some exploration properties off of France (who knew France had oil? Not me) and then won that license in Libya a bit over two years ago.
They’ve now drilled second and third holes in Libya, and released results yesterday morning that they called “encouraging.” (A fuller summary of their position was in their last earnings release, two weeks ago)
I have no idea whether these results are really encouraging or not, but I do accept the premise that there’s lots of oil in Libya and these folks may well end up drilling a bunch of it up. The daily production from their test wells sounds like it’s certainly worth developing.
They are not yet, however, profitable, and they may well sell off all or part of their French operations, which seem to recently be in some production decline, to fund development and exploration in Libya. This is all guesswork on my part, as I’ve only skimmed their filings. One part did jump out to emphasize the fact that they’re not the only beneficiaries of this Ghadames basin: “Verenex is the operator and holds a 50% working interest in Area 47 in Libya. Under the EPSA terms for Area 47, Verenex would receive an initial production allocation (free of all taxes and royalties) of 6.85%”
So, the other 50% is I believe held by Medco International Ventures, a subsidiary of an Indonesian company, and there’s a pretty solid bite from royalties and taxes — I don’t know how this compares with deals in other countries, though high royalties and taxation are of course de rigeur for oil production … it’s the country that really owns the oil, after all.
So that’s all I know about Verenex — dunno if it’s worth investing after this 200% runup, but it doesn’t look all that expensive to me if you believe Hopkins’ assertion that their Libyan properties will become a hub of world-class light sweet crude oil production. We’ll see.