Article – Mystery $100 Chinese firm shortlisted for NT pipeline

2 April 2015
Amos Aikman & Anthony Klan
The Australian

A company run out of a suburban Sydney home with just $100 worth of equity has been chosen as one of the four candidates to build a billion-dollar gas pipeline connecting the Northern Territory to the east coast, trumping several leading firms.

Yesterday the Northern Territory government announced that Merlin Energy Australia would be among those invited to proceed to the final stage of bidding, selected by a “panel of experts” alongside APA Group, DDG Operations and SGSP (Australia) Assets.
The Australian can reveal that Merlin Energy Australia is a company with just $100 in equity and one director-shareholder, Yue Ming Shen, 38, operating out of a residential property in the outer-western Sydney suburb of Cherrybrook, ASIC records show.
Merlin was registered on December 29 last year, 10 days after the NT government announced that an unspecified entity called Merlin Energy was among 11 companies invited to proceed to the initial proposal stage.
A government spokeswoman said Merlin was a “Special Purpose Vehicle with China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau, the leading Chinese pipeline company and a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation.”
“The Merlin local consortia members include OSD Pty Ltd, out of Queensland. The bid is supported by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and NAB,” the spokeswoman said.
According to company searches, Merlin Energy Australia has no parent entity and is wholly owned and controlled by Mr Shen. Mr Shen could not be reached yesterday. Company searches show Mr Shen is also a director of companies named Gnomikos, Petrocapital Corporation and Joyday.
Joyday is fully owned by chartered accountant Charles Victor Alexander, 71.
Mr Shen, Mr Alexander and Qi Neing Shin, 67, are the three directors of Joyday. Each of the directors lists Mr Shen’s Cherrybrook home as their residential address. None could be reached yesterday.
The naming of Merlin Energy Australia as a short-listed bidder caused some confusion in the market yesterday, given its similarity to Merlin Energy, a company fully owned by listed Queensland gas group Central Petroleum.
Central Petroleum chief financial officer Leon Devaney said Central Petroleum and Merlin Energy were in no way connected to Mr Shen’s Merlin Energy Australia.
He said Central Petroleum Group had not bid to build the gas pipeline and it was “strictly a supplier of gas” rather than a developer of pipelines.
“The similarity in company names has been causing some confusion but we are totally separate (from Merlin Energy Australia),” Mr Devaney said yesterday. The company later released a similar statement to the stock exchange.
The pipeline, if built, is expected to open up vast development opportunities and place downward pressure on east coast gas prices. The Territory could have as much as 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in onshore basins, according to some estimates.
“The quality of submissions through the government’s competitive process for the pipeline’s construction has been so high that we now feel it is inevitable that this vital pipeline will be built,” Chief Minister Adam Giles said yesterday.
Mystery Chinese firm in race for pipeline
Courtesy of The Australian