Monday, March 20, 2006

Two Indies In EHC Blocks Face Difficulty Making Payments, Doc Says; Word on Chevron Find: 'Massive'

Our well-versed source in Africa, whom we call "Doc," weighs in tonight on the recent PSC signings, the press release Friday and the road ahead for our company.

One bit of news from the message: Two independents in Blocks 2, 3 and 4 may have trouble meeting their obligations with respect to signature bonus fees.

Doc also says the word is that Chevron's Block 1 find is "massive," but that he expects the company to minimize it for now, and that by signing in three blocks, ERHC Energy has entered a new world of vast potential that needs to be professionally exploited.

The March 17 press release, with its two typos or grammatical errors (an "its" for "it's" and "date" for "data") reveal an unprofessional, amateurish approach,Doc says.

Here is Doc's lengthy message of tonight:

Dear Mr. Shea,

It was very good to see that at least three of the round 2 blocks were officially approved and signed for by the JMC on March 14. For the region it is a terrific step forward indeed. The word is that at least two of the Nigerian indies are having difficulties securing financing to pay their round 2 dues to the JDA. If they do not, it will be interesting to see if the JDA plays by its own rules - this would help it regain some level of respectability - or once again let politics supersede business sense. Either way, even if there is a slight redistribution here and there I do not believe that the balance would shift much in any of the three signed blocks.

Everything I have heard confirms the mammoth discovery by operator CVX at the edge of block 1, the one I referred to - and gave the exclusivity to your blog - on March 6. Expect however that CVX will also use every trick in the book to minimize it and disclose as little as possible to the JDA and to outsiders, at least in the near future.

One quick word about your "great" friend Mutwadadi's comment. Aside from childhood dialects I speak four languages (two of them fluently). My English improved dramatically when I studied in the UK and then U.S. many years ago. Some of us do pride themselves in speaking and writing properly (I also happen to be an avid reader and a great fan of several types of African and Western literature).

ERHC-insider Meridian - a Brandhuber associate, I am told - had great timing for his entry and has been doing a masterful job manipulating the flock on the pumping-only I-Hub ERHE board during this delicate phase. One will note however that the cowardly accusations Meridian made against Ali Memon are blatantly false, uncalled for, and totally unprofessional. I happen to know Mr. Memon and he is a capable, well-respected man in the business. A comment such as "What does he know, manipulated the share price down to own/control the company" shows how little Meridian knows about the way things work in Nigeria, especially inside the Offor clan.

Under the circumstances such accusations are not just absurd, they are downright hilarious (Mr. Brandhuber will most likely be given the boot within months - as soon as he becomes useless, or when he starts asking too many questions, or if he "wants in", etc.).

Now let us look at what the company released a full three days after the official JMC round 2 signing ceremony. Given the facts that first, less than 1% of businesses could possibly dream of ever getting a deal of the extraordinary magnitude ERHC just did, second, this is a major historical development for both the company and Nigeria, and third, ERHC now has major, officialized stakes in the exploration and extraction of enormous amounts of oil and gas in the Gulf of Guinea (worth over half a trillion dollars and much more 10 years from now, you can be sure of that), it is very difficult for me or anyone I spoke with to find the March 17 company PR anything but absolutely appalling: poorly written, incomplete, released too late and at the worst possible time (less than one hour before the bell rang on a Friday afternoon), and providing almost none of the contextual background information that was necessary for the reader to comprehend the importance of this release.

One will also notice that the very important fact that the partners that provide full-carry in blocks 2 and 4, both first-rate European and Chinese oil companies, are *also* operators was not even mentioned. In fact the word is not even there; imagine a PR about block 1 failing to mention that CVX will operate the block! The various excuses that have been given are just as poor as the PR. I have run a number of public companies myself and it is customary to *prepare* 3 or 4 different drafts for PRs, depending on the expected outcome of contract negotiations. In the old days my IR people would fax them to me wherever I was.

Nowadays we do this via email - in fact I received and viewed several drafts while on a recent flight; it all takes but an hour, and often much less. It is also well-known that excellent boilerplate "templates" can easily be found on the Internet and are used every day in PRs worldwide. Given Mr. Brandhuber's higher-education pedigree in the U.S. (not dissimilar to mine) I was also shocked by his lame wording and grammatical errors. I am sorry to say that this PR reeked of amateurism.

This is truly a shame because from the standpoint of what has been accomplished so far, ERHC's is truly an exceptional story. Trying to think as a Westerner I can see at least three angles that would delight a good writer or journalist: the John Henry one (Chief Offor), the Cinderella one (emerging full upstream-downstream Nigerian O&G industry), the David/Goliath one (ERHC versus oil supermajors). This is also the story of very big blunders on the part of America's companies and government, which could well be an even more interesting angle.

Since the company is so incompetent at getting its own story out (or unwilling to) may I suggest one very simple and very effective thing you, your readers and any person concerned by the lack of coverage can easily do. Pool your press contacts (both for online and print publications), publish them, and let people contact these media to suggest coverage. The publications I would recommend are: Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, New York Times, Le Monde, and all major newspapers in Houston. There are many others of course, such as the energy/economy desks of CNN, BBC, etc.

One last thing if I may. At this time there still hasn't been a single sign coming from the Offor clan indicating that they might change their ways. I would therefore strongly recommend that shareholders pay very close attention not to the standard "increasing shareholder value" verbiage but to terms such as "commercializing the Company's interests" and "future growth strategy" which could infer all kinds of vastly different scenarios - some which could enhance shareholders' investment and make them grow very nicely, but also some in which they could lose almost everything overnight. They should also demand, as they have the right to, that Mr. Brandhuber releases at the very least a broad business plan outline that describes any and all use of the 46 million dollars that should be in ERHC coffers by March 24. If this were any one of my companies, such critically important information would have been drafted weeks in advance and would normally be on the web site the next business day (in this case by Monday March 27). Alternatively a PR would be issued just as promptly, stating when that information will be released to shareholders. Anything short of these simple, customary steps and as an investor I would be seriously worried about the ERHE stock. I would also humbly urge your readers to take time to read again what I wrote in my March 10 commentary.

I was very sorry to read that you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. May I suggest that you look into some of the recent technology developments in the fields of voice recognition and data entry, I believe that there are now several solutions that permit writing via computer with little or no use of a keyboard - one just speaks and the words appear on the computer screen.

In the Spirit of Respect and Friendship,


No comments: