London-listed player Lekoil has returned to trading shares, albeit after taking a hit amid a questionable loan it believed it had agreed with the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar.
Lekoil’s advisers were approached on Sunday by representatives of the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA) questioning the validity of a $184 million loan agreement announced on 2 January.
After investigating, the company confirmed on Tuesday that the early January loan had been entered into “by a company with individuals who have constructed a complex facade in order to masquerade as representatives of the QIA”.
Lekoil said it will be contacting the relevant authorities across a number of jurisdictions without delay, with regard to “what appears to be an attempt to defraud” it, the company said.
It confirmed that its financial exposure is limited to approximately $600,000, being the amounts paid in good faith as initial arrangement fees, some of which it will try to recover.
Lekoil also entered into arrangements to compensate and further incentivise its chief executive, Lekan Akinyanmi, but all such arrangements have been since cancelled with immediate effect.
The company’s shares resumed trading on Tuesday after a temporary suspension. Shares plunged 65.69% early on Tuesday in London.
Lekoil was notified by QIA on 12 January that a different party falsely presented their credentials as QIA representatives to secure funds for the appraisal drilling and initial development programme activities on Lekoil’s Ogo field off Nigeria.
The company said it will seek alternative funding for the future development of OPL 310 as a priority, as the drilling of an appraisal well is still expected to occur before August 2022.
Lekoil originally acquired a 17.14% equity stake in OPL 310 in 2013, and two years later bought a further 22.86% after former partner Afren went into administration.
Subject to Nigerian ministerial consent, Lekoil’s interest in the development will increase to 40%, with local partner Optimum on 60%.
Meanwhile, Lekoil appointed independent non-executive directors Mark Simmonds and Tony Hawkins to investigate the origination and execution of the facility agreement. Simmonds is an ex-UK Foreign Office minister.