Gulf questions Clyde project

Gulf Canada's battle to win control of Clyde Petroleum plumbed new depths of acrimony yesterday as Gulf attempted to undermine the claims made in Clyde's final defence document last week. Both sides have now enlisted the support of independent oil consultants to bolster an increasingly technical struggle for the support of four key shareholders who own just over 50 per cent of Clyde's shares and will determine the company's fate.

Gulf focused yesterday on one of Clyde's North Sea prospects, which it said represented more than 70 per cent of its target's claimed production growth over the next three years. Earlier this week it spent pounds 2,000 buying test well data from the Department of Trade and Industry for Clyde's potential 9/14b development which it employed SSI, an industry consultant, to analyse.

JP Bryan, chief executive of Gulf, said: "Clyde has almost certainly included a significant value for this project in its valuation, although the actual amount has been kept from shareholders. Clyde management's story for 9/14b is not credible and shareholders deserve an explanation."

The 9/14b development accounts for the bulk of a forecast growth in Clyde production from 41,117 barrels of oil equivalent in 1996 to more than 60,000 in 1999. Gulf said yesterday there were serious doubts about whether Clyde could meet its demanding production schedule or recover the amounts of oil it expected to. It also believed Clyde had understated possible technical problems in linking the find into the larger Gryphon oil field, 20 kilometres away, and said it doubted the valuation of the field.

Clyde responded that Gulf had "made some horrible errors" in its assessment of the data. Roy Franklin, managing director, said: "They have been working on only a fraction of the data we have.

"Let's not lose sight of the facts during Gulf Canada's predictable attempt to talk down Clyde's price ahead of Day 46 of the bid. Gulf Canada's press releases betray a lack of knowledge of the North Sea and the latest techniques for field development being utilised by companies such as Clyde."