NZOG's head of exploration Bill Houston quits after less than year in role

New Zealand Oil & Gas' general manager of exploration has resigned.

Bill Houston [NZX: NZO], New Zealand Oil & Gas' general manager of exploration, has resigned less than a year after he took up the role with the listed energy explorer. 

Houston joined the senior management team in February, having first joined the Wellington-based company in early 2011, according to a company statement announcing the new role. A spokesman for NZOG told BusinessDesk that Houston was leaving to pursue other opportunities. 

The New Zealand exploration "remains attractive to us", with "vast, under-explored basins, an acceptable financial regime, a regular process for bidding for acreage and it is attracting credible large explorers including Woodside, Shell, Anadarko, and Statoil," chairman Peter Griffiths told shareholders at the annual meeting earlier this month. But it also had challenges, including high cost due to its remoteness from major centers of oil activity, challenging geology and limited data. 

The company is planning to return about $60 million to shareholders, using surplus cash as production ramps up at the Tui field. It will cancel one in five of its shares to return 75 cents per cancelled share and has received initial orders from the High Court to call a meeting seeking shareholder approval. 

NZ Oil & Gas, which has interests in the Tui and Kupe fields, can contemplate returning capital even though it is actively seeking to acquire new reserves, with a number of possibilities under review, and looking to squeeze more from its existing portfolio, Griffiths said. In August, the company posted a 61 percent drop in annual profit, partly reflecting a jump in exploration and evaluation costs.

Shares of NZ Oil & Gas were unchanged at 66 cents and have fallen 18 percent since the start of the year.