Oryx Petroleum

The Kurdistan newcomer with a veteran’s experience

Strictly speaking, Oryx Petroleum is a newcomer to Kurdistan, having officially set up in the region under that name in 2011. But in truth, that only tells a small part of the Oryx story, which can’t be understood without referring to Addax Petroleum. Listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2006, Addax witnessed a leap in its share value in 2009, and the opportunity to sell was too good to be missed.

No sooner had the gavel been struck to enshrine the sale, than the team was back under the new Oryx guise. The name may have changed, but much of what defined Addax has been retained in Oryx: The same vision, values, and ambition.

The founder of both entities and the engineer behind the changeover masterstroke, Mr. Jean Claude Gandur, remains in place, as does COO Henry Legarre, the man tasked with perpetuating the aforementioned concepts. In practical terms, then, Oryx’s industry experience stretches back 20 years; eight in terms of Kurdistan. Bound up in that experience is an expert knowledge of the terrain, geology, and local Kurdish culture.

Fast forward to today and it’s exciting times for Oryx. History is repeating itself – though in a wholly happier way than Marx predicted – as Mr. Gandur and his management team recently decided to float Oryx on the Toronto Stock Exchange, inspired by Addax’s successful move years previously. This proved a milestone for Oryx, as it unexpectedly struck oil during the flotation process. Both in practice and in perception, the definition of Oryx irrevocably changed from then on: It went from the narrow title of ‘‘explorer’’ to a bona fide company with reserves, which implicitly ties it to Kurdistan. Not for some short-term sojourn either: According to Mr. Legarre, initial evaluations of the Hawler block discovery estimate it ‘‘could prove to be the biggest in all of Kurdistan.’’

And big means bountiful. Indeed it´s already borne fruit: $250 million Canadian dollars have been raised through the IPO, and this sum was undoubtedly boosted by the news of Oryx striking oil. Buoyed by the discovery and increased capital, Oryx can now invest further in a mix of drilling and seismic activity. As Mr. Legarre himself confirms, ‘‘Kurdistan is where immediate value can be realized.’’

Oryx has cast its prospecting net far and wide, but to date, Kurdistan is the only location to have turned up a discovery. This goes some way to explaining the company´s commitment to the region, though not all. To describe Oryx’s Kurdistan motives as purely self-interest would be reductive. Having lived overseas for more than half his life, Mr. Legarre knows the importance of building a home away from home. And that sometimes means taking the ‘‘corporate’’ out of social responsibility; in his words, it’s about ‘‘more than just giving money, but getting involved.’’ That means going beyond simply funding the building of hospitals and schools – as Oryx has – and taking a genuine interest in their development. Like sitting on the board of a foundation, for example, that oversees the children’s hospital that is billed to become the best in the Middle East region.

For Oryx’s family man, ‘‘life is not just about the job,’’ but also about striking a balance with life’s commitments. That´s an apt metaphor for the company’s international prospects: They are growing, but Kurdistan will always be Oryx´s first and most cherished offspring.

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