Beach flags more M&A with new CEO

BEACH Energy has poached a merger and acquisitions expert in former Woodside executive and now Oil Search general manager Matthew Kay as its new CEO – a move which hints at a return to PNG recently flagged by Energy News and shows it's clearly not finished yet on the M&A front.
Beach flags more M&A with new CEO Beach flags more M&A with new CEO Beach flags more M&A with new CEO Beach flags more M&A with new CEO Beach flags more M&A with new CEO

Kay, 46, who Energy News understands is highly regarded at Oil Search, will start on a $900,000 salary, relocating from Sydney to Adelaide with his family for his new role which will start on July 17.

The move also further reflects industry respect and interest in Oil Search, which rejected an all-scrip takeover proposal by LNG specialist Woodside.

In his more than 25-year career, a key theme that stands out throughout all Kay's roles in major Australian companies Woodside, Oil Search and Santos is M&A expertise.

While this will no doubt put him in good stead to ensure a smooth $1.17 billion merger with Drillsearch - a deal expected to realise about $20 million of synergies in a low oil price world - there will be bigger fish to fry given Beach's stated intention to expand in a direction which could well head to Australia's northern neighbour.

Kay's most recent role was Oil Search's executive general manager, strategy and commercial for the past two years, leading its strategy, commercial, supply chain, economics, marketing, M&A and legal functions.

Before that he spent 12 years at Woodside holding several leadership roles across the Perth major's corporate and business units including LNG, pipeline gas and oil joint ventures and developments locally and internationally, culminating in his role as vice president of corporate development.

Importantly, one of his roles at Woodside was leading substantial M&A transactions, leading more than 80 production professionals.

Before that, he spent five years with Santos focused mainly on M&A transactions and gas strategy development and execution in Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

"It does reinforce their strategy of looking more strategically at their end of the sector - and our initial impression of Matthew Key are certainly that he has the skillset to complement that," Morgans Financial's senior resources analyst Adrian Prendergast told Energy News.

"He's done a lot of good work at Oil Search.

"I definitely think it will aid their plans for further sector consolidation.

"Well regarded within Oil Search, Matthew Kay's commercial experience will help Beach as it pursues its longer-term strategy for inorganic expansion."

Absent managing director Robert Cole, who was on personal leave at the time before exiting the company, Beach's executive director external relations Chris Jamieson told analysts last August that PNG was very much on its radar as part of its "four pillar" strategy which includes value accretive acquisitions.

Beach's market capitalisation of $1.047 billion last August meant PNG players like US-listed InterOil ($US2 billion) or fellow Australian-listed stock Oil Search ($A9.973 billion) would likely be too big a bite, but the South Australian company may have been willing to pay more for production or advanced assets.

However, Beach's valuation has plummeted with the continued drop in oil prices, reaching $540.7 million this morning.

Analysts have speculated to Energy News that fellow South Australian player Senex could be first cab off the rank for the newly formed Beach-Drillsearch entity, but PNG is clearly not off the cards.

"A lot of the good acreage in PNG is up in the Highlands and there are the likes of Horizon Oil and a few others with some good land holdings, they just are a little bit isolated without pipelines set up," Jamieson told Energy News last August.

"So there's enough onshore activity up there in PNG that would entice us, but I can't see us necessarily going offshore PNG."

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