By Siseko Njobeni
Johannesburg – Southern Africa-focused gas explorer and developer, Sunbird Energy, which was developing the Ibhubesi natural gas project offshore of the Western Cape, had not ruled out a future JSE listing, according to its chairman, Kerwin Rana.
Rana said on Thursday that Sunbird was effectively privatised and “Africanised” in June this year when shareholders voted in favour of the sale of all of its non-cash assets including the Ibhubesi Gas Project to a private, black-owned South African company called Sunbird Energy Holdings.
He said Musa Group, Sunbird’s corporate and strategic adviser of the past two and a half years, also held a significant shareholding in Sunbird Energy Holdings. “The net effect of the structure is that the Ibhubesi Gas Project is 76percent owned by a South African company more than 50percent black-owned and controlled. The remaining 24percent of the (project) is held by PetroSA.”
Rana said the restructuring of the company was central to its vision of being African-led.
“We are looking at this project as being of strategic and national importance to South Africa, and we want local investors to be part of the development. The new, ‘Africanised’ Ibhubesi Gas Project is now more than 50 percent black-owned.”
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The Ibhubesi Gas Project is a natural gas field development with 11 wells drilled thus far consisting of seven gas discoveries. The project is South Africa’s largest and yet to be developed independently certified gas reserves at 540billion cubic feet (Bcf).
Sunbird Energy Holdings is comprised of a consortium of the major African shareholders, strategic funders and advisers of Sunbird.
The consortium was led by Umbono Capital, which was the largest shareholder of the listed company. Umbono Capital remains the largest shareholder of Sunbird Energy Holdings.
Sunbird said the deal would encourage further exploration and development in the West Coast Orange Basin, which has many highly prospective areas.
“I truly appreciated Musa’s innovation and partnership and now that we are a private company, we can structure the organisation and drive the business model appropriately. At the appropriate time, we may well reconsider a public listing, possibly on the JSE,” said Rana.
Sunbird said the project was developing several market off-take opportunities, including providing fuel that could substitute diesel with gas at Eskom’s Ankerlig Power Station.
Eskom is converting the diesel-powered Ankerlig open cycle gas turbine plant to run on diesel and gas. Eskom spokesman, Khulu Phasiwe said the conversion started in August this year and would be completed by mid-2018.
Rana said there were cost and environmental considerations for the move towards dual-fuel conversion. “The cost of gas has been falling. But we also want to reduce our emissions, in line with the commitments the country made in the Paris agreement,” said Phasiwe.
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