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Petronova, Pacific Rubiales Farm-In Worth Another Look: Black Spruce Merchant’s Sonny Mottahed

As posted on ceo.ca on March 2, 2014 by Tommy Humphreys

The $65 million market cap Petronova announced a farm-in deal with Pacific Rubiales that will see the tiny oil explorer carried for 4 wells in the largest untested prospect in Colombia, potentially worth as much as $4 billion (40% to Petronova), with drilling starting in this year’s second half. Plus: Petromanas, Petroamerica, Canacol and frontiers of interest in an interview with one of Calgary’s leading independent energy-investment bankers.

Petronova (TSXV:PNA) is poised to take off in 2014.

This from Calgary-based energy investment banker and investor Sonny Mottahed.

Mr. Mottahed in a telephone interview tells us about one company that impresses him a lot.

Colombian oil and gas explorer Petronova just announced a farm in-deal with Pacific Rubiales (TSX:PRE), Colombia’s largest non-state owned oil producer.

Pacific Rubiales can earn into 50% of Petronova’s Tinigua prospect by paying back-costs of U.S. $12.5 million and spending U.S. $33 million for drilling, completing and testing up to four wells. Petronova will keep 40% of the project.

Tinigua could be the largest untested target in Colombia, Mottahed believes, with unrisked potential of 159 million barrels of medium to heavy oil.

If proven successful, those barrels could be worth between $20 and $25 in the ground. Petronova’s 40% could be worth $1.27 billion to $1.6 billion, which is impressive considering the company’s market cap today is $65 million.

Our request for comment sent to Serafino Iacono, co-founder and co-chairman of Pacific Rubiales, was responded with two words, “Good grounds.”

The first exploratory well at Tinigua will start drilling in the second half of 2014.

Petronova has a second asset in Colombia, the PUT-2 block (75% working interest), which just drilled its first well; results are expected any day now. Success there could lead to an early production scenario.

“Management may not come across as the most promotional, but they are capable, focused and experienced,” Mr. Mottahed said. “If they are successful at PUT-2, watch out.”

[This is Sonny Mottahed’s first appearance in these CEO.ca blogs, and we are grateful to him for sharing his time and ideas with us.]

PNA Weekly Chart

CEO Technician: There is a big 2 year base here but PNA needs over $.40 to get the excitement going. (Stockcharts.com)

Mottahed owns other energy names in Colombia, including Petroamerica Oil Corp. (TSXV:PTA), a 6,000 barrels per day light-oil producer trading at 1.4 times cash flow. Mr. Mottahed says the company has a strong exploration track record and has been creative in its deal making, even as Petroamerica receives little recognition in the stock market. Petroamerica soon will show results from its sole risk La Guira 2 well. Barring success at La Guira 2, Mottahed expects the stock could see a tailwind of new buying interest after the expiry of 80 million $0.35 cent warrants on May 9, 2014.

PTA Weekly

CEO Technician: PTA has formed a very tight range around .28-.32; there is some evidence of quiet accumulation. A strong push above .35 would be very constructive and move towards a longer term breakout targeting .50+. (Stockcharts.com)

Canacol (TSX:CNE), having climbed 200% in recent months, is another Mottahed favourite.

“It’s had a huge run, but they have an incredible asset portfolio, and results from their Exxon well are imminent; so it’s very easy to be excited about Canacol.”

CNE Canacol

CEO Technician: Heavy accumulation within recent bullish consolidation – $10 is certainly achievable for CNE by June. (Stockcharts.com)

Petromanas Energy (TSXV:PMI) came up multiple times during our call. That company saw its share price rise to $0.205 from $0.14 last week after a report by Oil & Gas Investments Bulletin’s Keith Schaefer suggested Petromanas could deliver 20-fold returns to investors. Petromanas is developing its early stage onshore deep light-oil discovery in Albania with Royal Dutch Shell.

Mr. Mottahed says Petromanas Energy’s assets as they exist today could substantiate a share price of $0.70.

“These guys are onto something that looks like it is out of this world, enormous,” he says.

“Actually getting oil up and putting it into tanks and selling it will probably go a long ways in the eyes of any doubters of this discovery.”

Mottahed says the company’s second well, Molisht-1, probably will be cheaper and more efficient than its first well, Shpirag-2. Still, the banker warned that the play could take 2 to 3 years to mature, albeit with lots of milestones that could keep investors’ eyes on Petromanas.

PMI

CEO Technician: High volume breakout last week in PMI, needs to hold above $.25 to confirm and target $.40. (Stockcharts.com)

We discussed a few of Sonny Mottahed’s favourite frontiers in the international energy business in 2014.

He credited Peru for encouraging exploration investment and said that Gran Tierra (TSX:GTE) has drilled a “monster” discovery there.

GTE Weekly

CEO Technician: Big bearish engulfing candlestick on volume last week although GTE is in a very nice long term uptrend. Above $8.50 it’s no problem but it looks a little dangerous here in the short term. (Stockcharts.com)

Nigeria, where Mottahed once lived and worked and keeps close connections, is a tough place to do business but has a robust hydrocarbon system, the financier said.

“We think the onshore in Nigeria has a lot of low hanging fruit.”

Mottahed also is looking at early stage opportunities in Indonesia.

Junior energy companies have a very high risk of going bust. They are not suitable for most investors, he reminds us.

“No matter how good the science, geology or close-ology may be, you never know what Mother Nature is going to turn up until you turn the drill bit to the right far enough to figure it out.”

Sonny Mottahed, 41, was born in Los Angeles, the son of an oil executive with Exxon-Mobile. The family lived in ten cities during Mottahed’s childhood and after university, he joined the oil and gas business in Nigeria. He then relocated to London, and Houston, before settling in Calgary, Canada’s energy finance capital, in 2004.

In Calgary, Mottahed is growing Black Spruce Merchant Capital (BCMC) with two partners, Jeff Barber and Dave Cheadle. The three men have worked together for the past eight years at Canaccord, Raymond James and now BCMC. Collectively, they have executed more than 300 transactions, including financings and mergers-acquisitions, Mottahed said.

The six-person BCMC team invests in and advises early-stage energy businesses.

Some 70% of the firm’s business today comes from the international sector, while BCMC is also active in domestic Canadian energy names.

Jeff Boyce, Co-Founder and Former CEO of Vermillion Energy and Executive Chairman at Petroamerica Oil, does business with BCMC and told us what gives Sonny Mottahed his edge.

“Sonny is intuitive and creative in finding solutions to financial and business dealings. He also has one of the most extensive contact bases, along with being one of the more likeable and street-smart financial people I have dealt with in my 33-year career.”

Learn more about Black Spruce Merchant Capital by visiting their Web site and follow them on Twitter (@BlackSpruceMC) for updates from their portfolio and the oil and gas industry.

Disclaimer: Black Spruce has a business relationship or Sonny Mottahed is an investor in all of the companies mentioned in this article. Author has a financial interest in Petroamerica Oil Corp. and Petromanas Energy. Mr. Mottahed’s comments are his opinions solely and are in no way assurances of one outcome or another. Views expressed in this article are NOT to be considered individual investment or professional advice of any kind. All facts are to be verified by the reader. Always do your own due diligence. Thank you.

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Calgary Oil Baron Jeff Boyce’s Petroamerica Turnaround In Progress

This interview was published by Tommy Humphreys on October 9, 2012 on CEO.ca.

Please enter http://ceo.ca/pta-update/ to get the whole story.

Since we first wrote about Petroamerica Oil Corp. (TSXV: PTA) on August 16, shares of the Calgary/Bogata-based oil and gas junior have risen over 50% to 52-week highs (chart). Obviously something is up so we decided to take a closer look to see why shares in PTA have more buyers than sellers.

What first attracted us to Petroamerica was the management team, which we detailed in our August article. Jeff Boyce, former CEO and co-founder of the $4.5B+ Vermillion Energy Inc., is a ‘hands-on’

Executive Chairman with a strong track record. CEO Nelson Navarette was formerly second in command at Ecopetrol, the state oil company in Colombia, and he has the connections and expertise to navigate the oil business in that country. Influential resource mogul and billionaire Frank Giustra is also one of the largest shareholders of the company.

We were also impressed by the turnaround strategy being executed by management. When we first spoke with Boyce by phone in August, he told us, “We’ve come out of two years of hell, changing management, cleaning up the company’s asset base. But I like this kind of stuff, I think I have half an idea of what I’m doing, so I stepped up, as did Nelson Navarette and Ralph Gillcrist [EVP Exploration and Business Development], and now we’ve made a major discovery.”

Another press release was issued by PTA last week which the market responded favourably to, announcing current net production of 2714 barrels per day. See: “Petroamerica Announces the Drilling Start-up of the Las Maracas-5 Well…

Following this release we wanted to know what to expect from PTA over the coming months, so weventured to Calgary last week to catch up with Mr. Boyce and learn more.

Our conversations with industry experts before heading to Calgary indicated that the market is positively inclined to Petroamerica, yet still wants to see more evidence that PTA can continue to deliver success.

Mr. Boyce put it succinctly in our meeting last Thursday when he said, “For our company, we’ve got a real nice oil field now at Las Maracas, and we’ve got a little bit of production at Balay. If we can get that other leg of the stool fastened with more exploration success, then the concentration risk is gone, and all of a sudden, this becomes a real company—not just a ‘one asset play.’”

In asking Mr. Boyce how investors might value the company, he suggested focusing on the growth of production, reserves and cash flow on a per share basis. “At 2714 barrels per day, our stock price is trading at less than two times 2013 cash flow per share. What’s a reasonable multiple? That’s for you to decide, but I think we’re trading at approximately half of our base value, not including any exploration upside.”

 

Catalysts

A top priority now for Petroamerica is to prove up its core asset, the Las Maracas oil field, which has been its first major success. One step out well, Las Maracas 5, is currently drilling, with Las Maracas 6 expected to be drilled right after Las Maracas 5.

According to Boyce, Petroamerica also has a number of exploration properties in the Llanos basin, all of which have undergone 3D Seismic surveys. Drill results from the La Casona well on the El Eden block will be out by the end of October. Petroamerica holds at 40% working interest in this block, and the company has handicapped the success of this well at 45%—with the potential of 5-10 million barrels recoverable. Boyce commented that, “El Eden has the potential to double our current production and reserves.”

The next block for exploration will be CPO-1, which is a 50% working interest in a joint venture with the $7B+ Colombian energy producer, Pacific Rubiales. The CPO-1 prospect has a potential size of 7-12 million barrels of recoverable reserves, handicapped at a 40% chance of success after the 3D Seismic survey. CPO-1 is expected to be drilled later this year or early next. In regards to CPO-1 Boyce said, “This is a very prolific area with lots of production around it. Like El Eden, CPO-1 has the potential to be as big or bigger than what we have now at Las Maracas.”

Additional drilling prospects include the Curiara-1 well at El-Porton, which is a block beside El-Eden and will be drilled early next year, with results expected by March 2013. When asked if El-Porton was as large of a prospect as the others, Boyce said, “In terms of potential, we think El-Porton is bigger, but keep in mind, this prospect has a much higher risk profile.”

Balay 4 will also be drilled shortly, as part of a delineation of a reservoir on the property with two wells already in production. Petroamerica has only a 15% working interest in Balay (with Petrobras as operator), so it’s less material to the company, but the field has potential, Boyce says.We also learned Petroamerica has further growth prospects outside of the blocks already mentioned, and more areas to run 3D Seismic surveys.

Another potential catalyst for the company will be the release of an upcoming reserve report, prepared by GLJ Engineering, which should be ready by March 2013. Petroamerica hopes this report will assist the company in obtaining a lower cost reserve-based credit facility in the future.

Additionally, the company is about to ramp up the marketing of its story to investors, beginning with presentations at a Colombian energy conference and the Canaccord Global Resource Conference this October.

Petroamerica also announced the engagement of Sonny Mottahed (Black Spruce Merchant Capital), formerly of Canaccord and Raymond James, as Special Advisor to the company’s board of directors. “Sonny is helping us to communicate the story properly, to find new shareholders, and in sourcing and evaluating new business opportunities. He gives us depth and he owns a lot of stock. He’s a partner, and we’re fortunate to have him involved,” Boyce commented.

 

Challenges

When asked about challenges the company has faced, Boyce indicated that, “One challenge we’ve had is retooling the whole shareholder base. Two years ago production was at zero and our share price was 70 cents. Today the production is at 2714 barrels per day, and the stock price is down here in the mid 20s. People got too excited too early. Now we’re starting to deliver success and we’re getting the right investor base who want to own Petroamerica, who understand the story, and who are a little more patient with their capital, like I am… I will be the last guy out,” Boyce further commented.

It is also difficult to ignore the high share count when evaluating the company, with 578,331,594 outstanding plus warrants and options at time of writing. “I don’t like that there’s so many shares out, but I own them, and I’m not selling,” Mr. Boyce told us. “Keep in mind when looking at the share structure that it’s the market capitalization that counts, and that we could take in a lot of capital at higher prices from our warrants and options.”

We asked Boyce whether a share consolidation was in the cards, and he replied that, “We would only consider a share consolidation on strength, with respect to a business combination or other positive transaction. In the meantime, we’re trying to make this company as successful as possible.”

 

Conclusions

What we like most about Boyce is that he wants results, and not promotion alone, to drive the share price. He commented that, “It’s fine to get people excited–they will believe you. But when I tell you I’m going to deliver, it’s going to be more than I tell you to expect, not less. That’s my philosophy of building success and loyalty in the marketplace… I want you to add 10% or 20% to my story because we’ve under-promised and over-delivered.”

As our time with Mr. Boyce came to an end he told us that, “With Petroamerica, we’ve had one major success. Now, for things to really take off, we need to show the market we’re not just a one-trick pony. I think the odds are, that out of five or six [exploration blocks], one or two are going to work, and when they do, we’ll get a real shot in the arm.”

Our experience shows us that speculating on an oil and gas explorer is never a sure thing — but fortune favours the bold, and it helps to have an experienced captain like Jeff Boyce at the helm. The fate of this company is now up to the drill bit, and at least operationally, now we know what to expect.

Whether you want to add 10% or 20% to the story is up to you.

Disclosure: Please see Petroamerica’s Disclaimer on page 1 of their corporate presentation as this article may contain forward looking statements. Also, Tommy Humphreys owns shares in Petroamerica Oil Corp. and this article is not investment advice. Always do your own due diligence and consult a licensed investment advisor before buying or selling any security.

SOURCE: Petroamerica Oil Corp.

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