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Board’s business distracts Anzoil

THE coal-seam methane business, it is hoped, will provide a brighter future for Perth junior explorer Anzoil NL.

During the past few months, however, Anzoil’s board members have diverted their eyes from future plans as the ghosts from the company’s past launch a comeback.

While the ongoing wrestle for control of the company appears almost ingrained in the Anzoil culture, the latest stoush emerged when the directors called for the resignation of chairman Rodney Hair. Mr Hair subsequently fell on his sword in late June, setting off a series of events that could potentially change the leadership of Anzoil once again.

In late August the IGM Group Limited run by Mr Hair announced its intention to sell a portion of its 20 per cent stake in Anzoil. It agreed to sell almost half of its shares to Singapore registered company Capersia Pte Ltd, at 4 cents a share, for a consideration of around $413,000.

Capersia directors include former Anzoil managing director Frank Jacobs, who resigned in October last year together with then chairman Jaap Poll.

Current Anzoil chairman Ian Viner C, who became chairman in June, said Messers Jacobs and Poll were persuaded to terminate their contracts by other directors, including Mr Hair, who had taken a seat on the board only weeks earlier in September 2001, after IGM took a stake in the company.

Mr Viner said that, as part of the termination settlement, Anzoil’s Indonesian LPG interests were taken over by a company directed by Mr Poll and Mr Jacobs.

With Mr Hair and IGM in control, Anzoil moved away from its overseas interests, concentrating instead on the domestic scene, particularly in the development of a coal-seam methane business.

Now that he has left the board, Mr Hair is selling half of IGM’s interests to Mr Jacob, who already holds a 14 per cent interest in the company.

For the deal to proceed, a condition has been placed on IGM to seek the removal of Mr Viner and fellow directors Andrew Dodman to be replaced by Peter Wilson and Adam Wheatley.

On August 30 IGM issued a section 249D notice to the directors requesting that a meeting be called to remove the directors.

However, last week Anzoil bought some time, indicating to shareholders and the Australian Stock Exchange that it would ignore the notice because of a technicality, as the move was not made in accordance with IGM’s constitution.

For the moment the Anzoil board is waiting to see what occurs next in the tussle.

Calls made to IGM and company secretary Mark Smith by WA Business News were not returned. However, Mr Viner made it clear that they would fight any moves by Mr Jacobs to influence Anzoil’s direction.

“It’s apparent that what Jacobs wants to do with Anzoil is not in the interests of the shareholders. He has indicated that he wants to increase our exposure offshore, chiefly through Indonesia,” Mr Viner said.

“We are not afraid of what further action Capersia takes. We are unfazed by the move and we remain confident that shareholders will understand what the current board is doing in restoring confidence in Anzoil.”

And until the board changes, Mr Viner said the companies concerns would focus on offshore programs, particularly in the development of coal-seam methane opportunities.

Earlier this month the company announced its intention to take a 20 per cent interest in a coal-seam methane pilot program south of Dalby in south-east Queensland in a joint venture with Arrow Energy NL.

It will expand the relationship between the two companies, with Anzoil also holding 2.6 million shares in Arrow Energy NL. As part of the agreement Anzoil is obliged to spend $1 million toward the cost of a five-well pilot program.

It has also indicated it was planning to spend an additional $1 million on another five wells on an adjacent property.

Mr Viner said the company had cash receivables and cash reserve of around $2 million, which would help fund the program.

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