CALGARY, Alberta, Dec. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire/ - Equal Energy Ltd. (TSX: EQU) (NYSE: EQU) today reasserted its commitment to a prudent and balanced long-term strategy in the face of reckless demands by two dissident shareholders and bloggers that risk jeopardizing the company's long-term stability.
"Our recently-completed strategic review seeks a balance between future growth and return of capital to shareholders", Don Klapko, Equal's President and Chief Executive Officer, said. "By contrast, the dissidents' demands are more short-sighted, and not in the interests of long-term financial stability and sustainable valuation for our shareholders."
Mr. Klapko added: "We have worked in good faith over several months to engage the dissidents, Mr. Nawar Alsaadi and Dr. Adam Goldstein. They continue to show little understanding of the opportunities and risks in the natural-gas business, or of Equal's operations and financial capabilities. Mr. Alsaadi and Dr. Goldstein appear to be active financial bloggers with little experience in running a public company which, unlike social media, operates in a regulated environment and requires a higher level of responsibility."
Dan Botterill, Equal's Chairman, said: "Some of Mr. Alsaadi's and Dr. Goldstein's demands would restrict the board from exercising its fiduciary duty to shareholders. We wish to assure all our shareholders that we will remain accountable to them, and not to a minority of voices interested only in financial engineering."Equal wishes to respond specifically to several demands and misleading allegations made by the dissidents in their press release dated November 29, 2012:
- The recent strategic review concluded that acquisitions would be considered only as one of a variety of options. Having worked so hard in recent years to lighten Equal's debt burden, the board and management have no intention of taking any action that would weaken the balance sheet. Equal has no plans for any major acquisition. Even so, it would be wise to take advantage of opportunities for smaller, tuck-in transactions that could enhance the value of the Oklahoma assets. In any case, no acquisition would be considered that was not accretive and beneficial to shareholders.
- A substantial share buyback would significantly weaken the company's balance sheet, potentially leaving it dangerously exposed to swings in the volatile natural-gas market. The board and the company's financial advisers firmly believe that the current strength of the balance sheet is now one of Equal's most valuable assets. It is critical in current market conditions to maintain a debt-to-cash flow ratio of less than 1.0, which the board and our advisers believe can be maintained under the 2013 budget plan. The current ratio is 0.7, but this will rise towards 1.0 with the payment of a dividend in 2013.
- As announced on November 27, 2012, Equal has initiated an annual dividend of USD$0.20 per share. The level of the dividend payment reflects a balance between returning as much value as possible to shareholders while maintaining a prudent debt-to-cash flow ratio in uncertain economic times, as outlined above. Although the board and management are confident that natural-gas liquids prices will maintain their recent improvement, we do not see a full recovery until 2014. Mr. Klapko said: "In all that we do, we are determined to ensure that we do not take Equal back to the dark days of five years ago when its predecessor over-extended itself by taking on too much debt. An unsustainable dividend - as now demanded by the dissidents - was exactly what landed the company in trouble then."
- As mentioned in the November 27 release, the strategic plan includes a review of the composition of the board and senior management team, as well as a review of compensation policies.
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