The slides for the annual meeting of Energy World Corporation in 2012 depict chairman Stewart Elliott and his trusty finance man Brian Allen departing by helicopter for a site visit in Indonesia, then arriving by helicopter safely at site.
Uncannily, the helicopter they arrived in had a white tail whereas the one in which they took off had a blue tail.
The dynamic duo appears to have swapped choppers mid-flight, which is no mean feat.
Last week Stewart and Brian pulled off another coup. They managed to swing a mandate from the government of Jamaica to build and operate a 360-megawatt power station.
You have to hand it to the lads. They didn’t bother with the finicky process of submitting a proposal to Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation along with the other bidders. They lodged their bid late, and straight to cabinet, causing quite an outcry in the Caribbean island. ”Highly irregular,” said Opposition energy minister Gregory Mair.
Anyway, they pulled it off in as spectacular a fashion as their mid-air change of chopper. Here’s the thing though; the bid was made, not via the ASX-listed company Energy World Corporation (EWC), but rather through EWC’s major shareholder, the mysterious Energy World International (EWI).
A politician from the opposition in Jamaica emailed us last week to say that Stewart and Brian had some ”choice words” to say about yours truly for casting aspersions over their track record; a track record rich in grand promises but not so impressive in execution – hence our criticism.
”They have basically described you as a ‘hired hand’ for the big oil company interests,” said the politician.
We doubt whether the Australian Production & Exploration Association, ”the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry”, would concur. But be that as it may, it seems that when asked by the Jamaicans to produce their financials – to demonstrate an ability to build and operate a $730 million power station – Brian and Stewart produced EWC’s financials.
No matter that EWC has a sharemarket value of $520 million, no matter that it has made a raft of fanciful claims over the years about building LNG facilities which have never come to fruition, EWC didn’t win the tender, EWI did.
There has been some confusion in Jamaica that EWC is the parent of EWI. It’s the other way around. EWI owns 36 per cent of EWC. The rub is that precious little is known about EWI apart from the fact that it is controlled by Stewart Elliott and it has been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in related party deals with the listed company EWC.
Otherwise it remains shrouded in mystery. There is no public evidence it is a ”pioneer of modular LNG development” as purported on EWC’s website, nor of its 25-year track record in building power stations. There were reports on internet news services that EWI was constructing a $US1.35 billion ($1.44 billion) port and LNG terminal in Colombo, Sri Lanka, but they proved hard to verify. Even a phone number proved elusive.
There is talk that billionaire Kiwi hedge fund manager Richard Chandler (EWC’s second-largest shareholder) now has some involvement in EWI but the only things we really know is that it is said to be domiciled in Hong Kong and it is controlled by Stewart.
In light of the enigma that is EWI, we have even the more admiration for the flair of Stewart and Brian in securing this critical government project in the Caribbean. We also confess to a touch of apprehension for the poor people of Jamaica who already suffer high energy prices and low incomes.
But the people of Jamaica can thank the ASX. It would be uncharitable for the ASX to be viewed as the most prolific publisher of fairytales since Hans Christian Andersen – a stock exchange can hardly be expected to vet every announcement filed with it – but companies can say pretty much what they like.
It is via the ASX that EWC has showcased its projects, traded its shares and raised its equity capital. Over the years, EWC has told the ASX it has been building LNG plants in Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
Over the years, these projects have all been delayed. Its enormous PNG project appears to have vanished altogether, even from EWC’s own presentation materials, with little explanation.
- EWI’s application was made to the Office if Utilities Regulation not directly to Cabinet. EWI somehow pursuaded the Energy Minister (a cabinet member) to convince the OUR to accept EWI’s late bid
- EWI was not declared the preferred bidder (it finished 2nd) but the winner co-operated by failing to come up with a performance bond and EWI was promoted to 1st
- Despite failing to show any financial statements to the OUR, they were recommended by the OUR for the licence which was shortly signed by the Minister
- Jamaica’s Opposition leader is Andrew Holness. Gregory Mair is the Opposition spokesman on Energy.