Carlo Civelli is nothing if not controversial. His name alone gets Canadian securities regulators into a lather as he was a major investor and a major seller (in advance of the crunch) of some of the most egregious stock promotes of all time. Delgratia is the most-cited example - where Civelli was allegedly the main backer of a company which had a major gold find. The stock plummeted on revelations that drill samples had been salted - or as the court documents sum up the engineering reports, "any [gold] detected had been introduced after drilling." The salting was done by persons unknown and the chief geologist won a defamation suit when the Canadian press suggested he did it.
Civelli was a backer of another over-hyped resource stock - Pinewood Resources – a stock which announced large finds and collapsed to pennies. There was also Arakis Energy. Arakis sums up what is good-and-bad about Civelli. Arakis - through dealings with warlords - got prospective acreage in Sudan on which they found oil. The quality of the finds was however grotesquely overhyped leading to a run-up and collapse. The company was eventually sold to Talisman for roughly 15 percent of peak price. The CEO - a longtime Civelli associated - agreed many of the nasty facts and settled for a twenty year ban from the Canadian securities industry. The good bit was that there were real resources there - value was created. The bad bit was that - as per many Civelli stocks - it was overhyped.
Note that Carlo Civelli was not charged – and only management received bans. Overhyping is epidemic in the stock market. Moreover there were plenty of good bits in Arakis. There was real oil - and in commercial quantity. Carlo Civelli has - contrary to what his critics have said - backed some valuable resource projects. That Carlo Civelli has backed frauds does not imply that if Carlo Civelli backs it is a fraud. Nor does it imply that Carlo Civelli was involved in the fraud. Both of those are much more dubious propositions.
The most controversial current Civelli stock is Interoil - a company with real gas finds in remote Papua New Guinea and with well researched allegations that the finds are overhyped.
Still the Interoil bears (and there are plenty) were dealt a body-blow when Soros funds management purchased a large stake in the controversial company presumably after competent due-diligence. Interoil is one of Soros's largest holdings. Sure Buffett buying would confer even more credibility to Interoil - but Soros is a pretty good second best.
This blog however does not want to comment on Interoil - it wants to raise the latest association of Carlo Civelli and Soros funds management. Dear readers - I give you Manas Petroleum and its subsidiary Petromanas into which Soros has invested just over $40 million.
Manas/Petromanas is an unlikely candidate for a large Soros investment. The parent trades on the over-the-counter bulletin board and has used paid stock promoters. It maintains its website in Vancouver rather than in its home base of Switzerland. Petromanas (a listed subsidiary) trades on the Canadian venture exchange and their website is maintained in New York not where their business operations are. Petromanas owns the Albanian prospects of Manas and it is that which Soros is investing in.
These companies are slickly promoted. Here are three You-Tube videos detailing Manas Petroleum's prospects and management. Money has been spent on them.
The use of paid promoters has been widespread - for instance a 34 page stock report by report by Cohen Independent Research Group (a penny-stock promoter) has the following disclaimer:
Cohen Independent Research Group Inc. (CIRG) distributes research and other information purchased and compiled from outside sources and analysts. This report/release/advertisement is an advertisement and is for general information purposes only. Do not base any investment decision on information in this report. All information herein should be viewed as a commercial advertisement and is not intended to be used for investment advice. [Emphasis added.]
This is not the only example of paid-promoters shilling Manas though is by far the most prominent.
Penny-stock shills have - as many have noted - a poor record. Paid penny-stock promoters poorer still.
But hey - this is Soros - so there is always the possibility that Mr Soros and his organization have found the promote that someone thought was worth advertising with Mr Cohen (presumably so they could sell it) - but in fact represents a fantastic investment.
I see three possibilities:
- 1. Soros has found the well promoted penny stock that really is worth your hard earned cash or
- 2. The Soros organization have become active participants in penny stock schemes or
- 3. That Soros organization has a rogue analyst/fund manager who is (knowingly or unknowingly) involved in stealing large licks of money by investing in dodgy promotes run by Civelli and his agents.
Stuffed if I know. I have no position. But I would be very wary shorting Manas – Civelli stocks have often gone for enormous runs before blowing up and Civelli has backed real finds like Arakis (even if they were excessively hyped).