ANGEL OF BENTLEY: There were colourful celebrations on Monday after Lismore MP Thomas George announced a buyback of three of Metgasco’s exploratory CSG licences.
ANGEL OF BENTLEY: There were colourful celebrations on Monday after Lismore MP Thomas George announced a buyback of three of Metgasco’s exploratory CSG licences. Marc Stapelberg

Henderson: We’re not taking the shareholder vote for granted

METGASCO will leave the region permanently if shareholders endorse the Baird Government's proposed $25 million buyback of its three Northern Rivers exploration licences.

But if shareholders opt to reject the offer, Metgasco will restart its seismic testing and drilling operations and continue current legal action for compensation against the government.

Speculation has been furious on social media over which way shareholders would vote.

There were several posts on the mining investment website HotCopper which estimated the major shareholders - led by ERM Power which holds 12.87% - would back the deal.

The Metgasco board also holds shares, although managing director Peter Henderson said it was "relatively small".

"We're not taking the shareholder vote for granted," Mr Henderson said.

"We recognise that while some shareholders think our position was pragmatic and in the best interests of the company, there are some... who are very angry and frustrated with what's happened over the last four years.

"Some would prefer to keep fighting and fighting; others think we have done a deal for a figure which is far too low.

"Ultimately the shareholders have the final say. If (they) vote against the measure, we will continue where we were with seismic and drilling."

There are two schools of thought on the $25 million offer: One, it represents an effective return of 20c for every dollar the company invested in the region and is simply unfair.

The other is the PELs are "worthless" because the industry has no social licence in the region and cannot effectively operate - making $25 million a reasonable offer.

If the deal is approved, the company will shut its office and start looking not just outside the region but outside the state, and even overseas.

Off that list, perhaps permanently, is NSW, but also Victoria, where anti-gasfield lobbyists have had great success at influencing public perceptions about the industry.

Asked about why the company found itself in this position, Mr Henderson said the "anti-fossil fuel movement" was "very successful at influencing community attitudes" and had "created an excessive amount of fear and concern".

"I think the anti-fossil fuel movement has been effective and continues to be effective," he said.

On the other hand, "our industry had not been very successful at explaining to people why we're safe… why our benefits our overwhelmingly positive".

The extraordinary meeting at which shareholders will decide the company's future is planned for December.


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