Slugcatcher: Let them eat cake

It will be fireworks over Paris in 14 days as the French celebrate Bastille Day, their national day of liberation. It might even be the same over Voelte Towers in downtown Perth as Woodside Petroleum celebrates the first 100 days of Citizen Don.

For any well educated oiler with a limited understanding of history the coincidence of the two events is, to put it mildly, delicious.

Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14 because that is when the poor of Paris stormed the prison known as the Bastille in 1789, setting free prisoners, and triggering the French Revolution, a bloody event featured delights such as Madam Guillotine, and tumbrels over-flowing with severed heads.

Slugcatcher is not for a second suggesting that newly-appointed Woodside CEO, Don Voelte, has called for the setting up of a guillotine in the lobby of the Woodside building which wags in Perth have dubbed Voelte Towers.

However, there is something about the first 100 days in any chief executives reign, and when Don took on the job he was presented with a “100-day Action Plan”, drafted by Woodside staff as things the new boy needed to see and do from the day he first slipped his shoes under the CEO’s desk on April 5.

Impressed with the plan, but unimpressed with the time, High Voltage suggested a shortening of the 100-days to a 60-day Action Plan.

Something might have been missed over the past few months but it seems to Slugcatcher that the 60-day time limit expired on June 4 with barely a ripple, partly because Don was on his way to London to deliver a paper to European investors.

That appears to make the 100-day event the more likely time for celebrations and/or commiserations at Woodside. Just what will happen, Slugcatcher knows not. However, it is interesting to note the absence from public view of most senior Woodside types because times are said to be very busy at Voelte Towers right now.

The busy signal is a red rag even to a slug, especially when a major milestone such as first 100 days is close to being achieved.

Everyone, including Slugcatcher, will have to wait for any monumental announcements but, as a softening up exercise he did a little of his own number-crunching the other day to see if it was possible the measure the impact of High Voltage on Woodside in his first 86 days.

Oil prices have had a lot to do with these calculations but there is no doubt that since Don’s appointment was announced on February 17 the Woodside share price has risen rather sharply.

On announcement day, Woodside was selling for exactly $15, giving the company a market capitalisation of $10 billion.

On April 5, the day Don slipped his dainty size eights under the table (Slugcatcher is guessing Don’s shoe size here but correct information from a Woodside informant would be appreciated) Woodside’s share price was up to $16.06, giving the business a value of $10.7 billion.

On June 4, when the 60-day Action Plan deadline passed, Woodside was up to $16.54, a value of $11 billion, and a few days ago the stock had hit $17.15, a value of $11.4 billion.

Slugcatcher, in the interests of keeping Don’s hat size down to a modest fitting, rather than the XL usually associated with oil company chief executives, is confident that he will not claim to be totally responsible for the entire $1.4 billion increase since the announcement of his appointment. That would be immodest.

However, it would not be surprising if someone else soon dubbed Don the billion dollar man. Perhaps July 14 would be a good day for that event, even if some of the staff are still worried about the car parks at the back of Voelte Towers marked “tumbrels only”.