Oil company Gulf Keystone hit back today after major shareholder M&G Recovery Fund lambasted its corporate governance policy.
The 5.1 per cent shareholder said Gulf Keystone needs to do more to strengthen its board, just days after the company attempted to address corporate governance criticisms by splitting the roles of chairman and chief executive for the first time, appointing 73-year-old former French legionnaire Simon Murray to the former job.
In a statement today, Gulf Keystone defended its corporate governance, pointing to the appointment as evidence that it took the matter seriously.
Furthermore, Gulf Keystone said it was “wholly disingenuous for M&G to state they are ‘seeking a meeting with new chairman Simon Murray as soon as possible’”.
“Advisers to Gulf Keystone contacted M&G on July 5 by phone to arrange such a meeting, to which M&G agreed in principle. A follow-up email to finalise the details of the meeting has yet to receive a reply,” the company’s statement continued.
The company’s shares rose by 2.50p, or 1.6 per cent, to 160.25p following its statement.
Gulf Keystone says a non-executive director met with M&G on June 12 to discuss corporate governance, seven days before M&G issued a resolution nominating four proposed candidates for election as independent non-executive directors.
Gulf Keystone said: “At no time during the meeting did M&G raise the intention of sponsoring their own nominees. Indeed, Lord Guthrie had arranged, on request by M&G, to meet with Jeremy Asher, one of their proposed nominees and a former director of Gulf Keystone who was voted off the board on 1 April 2010.”
“The meeting was scheduled to take place, as it turned out, two hours after the submission by M&G of their nomination of the four candidates.
“At no time prior to this meeting was the nomination of the four candidates mentioned either by M&G or Jeremy Asher. Lord Guthrie was left with no choice but to cancel the pre-arranged meeting due to the behaviour of M&G,” the statement continued.
Murray, the former chairman of Glencore, will work alongside Todd Kozel, who will retain his chief executive role.
Gulf Keystone said it was also engaged in a search for another independent director.
Gulf Keystone’s annual shareholders meeting on July 25 is likely to involve a likely discussion on corporate governance.