UK shale gas industry set to boom – how to profit from it

30 Apr

The UK's energy future?

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the US is benefiting from a booming shale gas industry. So much has been invested in the drilling of shale that the US now faces a glut of natural gas and depressed prices. But if we were to look at the other side of the Atlantic, the UK has barely touched its shale resources. There are two main visible players in Britain, and those are Cuadrilla Resources and IGas – but IGas is the only one publicly traded.

Recently IGas upped its estimates of recoverable shale gas at their Ince Marshes site to 10TCF (Trillion Cubic Feet). To put that in perspective, the UK uses 3.3TCF every year (Source: NoHotAir). That means that IGas owns fields which have the potential to power the UK’s gas needs for 3 years. No North Sea resources, no tankers coming from dodgy Middle-East states, no pipelines from Norway… for 3 years!

My question then was: why is this company only trading at roughly £100M?

My first thoughts were the controversy surrounding shale drilling and the misunderstandings about it. Will nimbyism and local politics get in the way? Concerns were raised about earthquakes caused by fracking operations near Blackpool and the government had suspended Cuadrilla’s drilling, pending an investigation. That DECC investigation last week concluded that Cuadrilla should continue, so this bodes well for IGas’ holdings.

Secondly I wondered if that because it is a small company and barely discussed in the newspapers… it has garnered little attention. Its low market capitalisation could be due to this.

Thirdly, I wondered whether the fact that they are not planning to develop their shale gas resources was weighing on its valuation. Instead of drilling themselves, IGas announced that they would be looking for partners to exploit the gas for them.

After attempting to contact the CEO this morning, I was sent towards their PR department who told me very little beyond what I already knew. Except that the woman who I spoke to implied that they would be looking to sell their shale gas acreage, as opposed to other options.

According to their recent investor report IGas own 384,249 acres. In the US, where commercial production has taken off, transactions in 2010/11 valued each acre at $7,468 (according to the same report). Now correct me on my back of the envelope maths, but that makes an estimate of their shale assets worth $2.9 billion or £1.76 billion at today’s exchange rates. Even if only a fraction of those assets are retrievable, exploitable and sellable – IGas’ share price should be a multiple of where it is today.

What also gave me faith in the company is the fact that its management own a significant portion of it. Francis Gugen, the chairman, owns 17.03% of the company, whilst Andrew Austin, the CEO, owns 6.57%. Those two will know more about the company than any freelance researcher like myself can find out – so that should be a strong signal to buy in.

Significant Shareholders (Source: IGas website) No of Shares Percent
NEXEN 39,714,290 24.48%
FRANCIS GUGEN (Chairman) 27,615,764 17.03%
BRENT CHESHIRE 11,429,253 7.05%
ANDREW AUSTIN (CEO) 10,659,253 6.57%
BAILLIE GIFFORD 8,088,217 4.99%

The only risks I do see are political obstacles. Many people are uninformed about the risks and unaware of the potential which shale gas holds in the UK.

But the way I see it – the market is not expecting IGas to make much money from shale. Once they do make an announcement, however, regarding a shale drilling partner or selling off land parcels – we will see the company’s valuation reflect this.

All in all, the company owns shale gas fields which may be worth several times more its current market value. As the company appears to have had minimal attention paid to it, it is trading at low prices and furthermore the management have put several million pounds of their own money into the business. Although there are risks, the company does have a strong portfolio of CBM (Coal Bed Methane) and oil assets which limits the potential downside. This is a strong buy, if ever I saw one.


Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Trading Ideas


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3 responses to “UK shale gas industry set to boom – how to profit from it

  1. Brian stuart

    August 19, 2012 at 10:01 am

    We don’t know if the gas can be commercially extracted. Several US majors have pulled out of Polish shale projects in recent months because of their uncommerciality. Have these directors put several million pounds of their own money in – or were the shares awarded as part of a long term incentive plan where their sale is restricted for several years ?

    • thejollyprophet

      August 19, 2012 at 10:56 am

      You raise a couple of good points Brian, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know either. Although Exxon did pull out of Poland, Chevron, Cononco Phillips, Talisman Energy and Marathon oil are continuing and accumulating vast acreages. (source:

      Whether they will be viable – it still remains to be seen. But I think if it is viable – there will be a big green light for shale investment in the UK and consequently IGas, and I am willing to take that risk given the large potential payoff.

      As for the directors, from my understanding they put their own money in – but they may not have.

      One point of note however, is that they took on a new non-exec, Robin Pinchbeck who bought £52,000 worth of shares within 2 days of being in the job. Granted – it’s probably pocket change to him, but he surely had confidence in the company, from what he saw in those first few days.


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