Gulf Keystone splits chair and chief exec roles

Suzie Neuwirth
AIM-LISTED Gulf Keystone Petroleum yesterday announced that it has split the roles of chairman and chief executive in order to comply with corporate governance regulations, ahead of an application to be admitted to London’s main market.

A search has commenced for an independent non-executive chairman and at least one other independent non-executive director to strengthen the oil and gas explorer’s board.

It is understood that the listing application will not be made until the outcome of a court battle over ownership of a Kurdistan oil field is known. The judgement is expected over the summer.

“Gulf Keystone had announced their intentions a while ago and they are one of the biggest companies on Aim, so it was no surprise,” Tim Hurst-Brown, analyst at Mirabaud Securities, told City A.M. “The move opens the company up to a new range of investors and raises its profile.”

The company is initially applying for a standard listing but intends to apply for a premium listing when it meets the regulatory requirements, although Hurst-Brown warned that the latter could be challenging.

“[Oil and gas explorer] Genel Energy has been trying to move from a standard to a premium listing for a while and has been blocked because of concerns over the sanctity of its operations,” he said.

However, Sam Wahab, analyst at Cantor Research, said that the two companies were entirely different as Genel was a cash shell, whereas Gulf Keystone has been around for longer and was set up in a different way.

Todd Kozel, executive chairman and chief executive of Gulf Keystone, commented: “The splitting of my role as chief executive with that of an independent non-executive chairman further signals Gulf Keystone’s continuing commitment to high standards of corporate governance in preparation for our previously announced proposed move to the official list.”