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Rising like a phoenix

It’s not often that outsiders get a glimpse into the very private world of Ric Stowe.

Careful readers of the recently released prospectus from AusAm Resources are able to do just that – and come away with the impression that, when it comes to resource investing, Ric’s decided that coal beats oil any day.

Ric’s fortune, estimated at $240 million, flows from his ownership of the Collie-based Griffin Coal Mining Company and its deal to sell coal to Western Power.

He is also known for his troubled ‘non-marriage’ to Jemma Stowe (which is still before the courts), his reclusive lifestyle in Monte Carlo and the occasional dabble in non-coal investing – including a search for oil and gas near Perth.

It’s the gas search which seems to have pained Ric somewhat.

For the past twenty years he has been hunting an alternative energy source to offset his heavy exposure to coal.

The AusAm documents indicate that Ric’s tossed in the towel after burning a few million on the way.

Most of the oil exploration permits being acquired by AusAm (see map) were previously held by Phoenix Energy.

Phoenix is a Stowe company which was supposed to have delivered to Ric his second source of energy that he could sell to WA consumers (so he could continue to live in the manner to which he has become accustomed).

Sadly, Phoenix refused to perform in the same way as its mythical namesake bird – burning itself to ashes and then rising – “springing forth with new life”.

Ah well, what’s in a name anyway?

Perhaps AusAm can do the rising from ashes trick.

The new company is seeking $6 million as first-stage seed capital to take up the Phoenix challenge.

It plans to start by re-entering the Walyering gasfield and then the Warro field. Both are close to the Parmelia gas pipeline and both have a reasonable chance of success.

The plan also looks good because there is plenty of gas in the fields discovered by WA Petroleum in the mid-70s.

The problem for AusAm will be achieving what eluded Wapet – getting the gas out in commercial quantities.

Managing director Terry Barr says this can be done using modern drilling technology, especially an American system called under-balanced drilling. (If you really want to know what it means give Terry a call, and set aside half an hour for the explanation)

Briefcase wishes Terry the best of luck – and he might need it. The tightly-locked Perth Basin gasfields have been one of the resource world’s most frustrating assets.

Apart from the original Dongara field they have only reluctantly revealed their wealth.

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11/06/14
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Total value as at the date of the transaction
Source: Morningstar

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