Battery company appoints new CFO

Microvast has appointed Yaser Ali as its new CFO. He replaces Craig Webster, who resigned in April after one year in the role.

Microvast manufactures lithium-ion batteries for commercial electric vehicles. It has a 1,400,000 sq.ft. factory in Huzhou, China and it is in the process of building a 577,000 sq. ft. facility in Clarksville, Tennessee. It has its corporate office in Stafford, TX with other facilities in Florida,  Colorado and Germany.

The company went public via a SPAC in July 2021. Like many companies taken public in this way, its shares are under water and now trade at 42 cents. For 2023, it had revenue of $307 million and a net loss of $106 million. Building of the new facility in Tennessee has been put on hold while they seek financing.

Prior to joining Microvast, Mr. Ali was the CFO of Vision Technologies between August 2022 and March 2024. That company is an IT consulting business, based in Baltimore. He has also worked at Sun Edison and Amazon.

Mr. Ali will receive a base salary of $325,000.

SEC filing – 8-K Microvast CFO 24-07

Graf Global completes $230m Initial Public Offering

Graf Global Corp, a blank check company based in The Woodlands, has completed its $230 million Initial Public Offering.

The company is run by James Graf. It is the 7th blank check or SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) that he has been involved with.

Here is a breakdown of all those SPACs;

Graf Acquisition Corp IV: IPO in May 2021 raised $172 million. Took NKGen Biotech public in September 2023 for $161 million. Mr. Graf currently serves as the interim CFO of NKGen. Share price now $1.27.

Graf Acquisition Corp: IPO in 2018 raised $244 million. Took Velodyne Lidar public in September 2020 for $1.5 billion. Velodyne merged with Ouster in February 2023 and was valued at $307 million at the time of the merger.

Platinum Eagle Acquisition: Mr. Graf was an investor and non-exec director, rather than the leader in this IPO. Company raised $325 million in 2018. Took Target Hospitality public in 2019 for $1.3 billion. Target recently issued a profits warning as the government announced that it would shut a detention center run by Target. Market cap now $822 million.

Double Eagle Acquisition Corp: IPO in 2015 raised $500 million. Took WillScot public in a $1.1 billion deal in 2017. Market cap currently $7.7 billion.

Silver Eagle Acquisition Corp: IPO in 2013 raised $325 million. Bought Videocon d2H, an Indian pay-TV service provider for $273 million in 2015. Business later merged with Dish TV.

Global Eagle Acquisition Corp: Mr. Graf served as CFO of this company which went public in a $190 million IPO in 2011. Took Advanced Inflight Alliance public in 2013. The company, which was renamed Global Eagle Entertainment, filed for bankruptcy in 2020.

Note: Graf Acquisition II and III filed for IPOs in 2021 but were later withdrawn.

James Graf work history

Mr. Graf started his career with Morgan Stanley in 1987 and worked in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore. He then spent time with other investment banks in Hong Kong and Singapore. In 2001, he founded an enterprise software company that was sold in 2006. Mr. Graf returned to investment banking in Singapore in 2008 before starting his blank check endeavors.

Press Release – Graf Global IPO

Targa Resources appoints new Chief Financial Officer

Targa Resources has appointed Will Byers as its new CFO. He replaces Jen Kneale, who will now become the President of Finance and Administration.

It may sound like a demotion, but it is not.  Mr. Byers will report to Ms. Kneale, who has been given expanded responsibilities and will continue to report to the CEO, Matt Meloy. Mr. Meloy was the CFO before Ms. Kneale.

Targa is a Houston-based midstream company with a market capitalization of $29 billion. It is primarily involved in the gathering and treatment of natural gases in the Permian Basin and its transportation by pipeline to its processing and export facilities in the Houston region.

Mr. Byers joins from Manchester Energy, a private equity-backed midstream business where he has been CFO for two years. Prior to that, he was CFO at Navitas Midstream Partners until its sale in 2022 to Enterprise Products for $3.25 billion. Before that, Mr. Byers was a managing director at Barclays and worked in investment banking for 14 years. Mr. Byers will receive a base salary of $575,000.

Ms. Kneale has served as the CFO since 2018. She joined the company in 2013 from the energy private equity group of Tudor Pickering. Her base salary will increase from $635,000 to $680,000.

SEC filing – 8-K Targa appoints new CFO

Texas Medical Center entities to pay $15m to settle concurrent surgery claims

Three Texas Medical Center Institutions have agreed to pay $15 million to resolve claims that they billed for concurrent heart surgeries in violation of Medicare teaching physician and informed consent regulations.

Baylor College of Medicine (‘BCM’) , Surgical Associates of Texas PA and Baylor St Luke’s Medical Center (‘BSLMC’) are the entities involved. BSLMC is a joint venture between CommonSpirit Health and BSM. It operates a teaching hospital, formerly known as St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, in Houston.

The investigation began in Aug 2019, following a whistleblower complaint. Three heart surgeons, who performed at St. Luke’s, were alleged to be running two operating rooms at once. They delegated key aspects of the surgery to unqualified medical residents. This included coronary artery bypass grafts, valve repairs and aortic repair procedures.

Medicare regulations dictate when teaching physicians can leave the operating room for any operation, no matter how complex.

The settlement resolves allegations that from June 2013 to Dec 2020, the three surgeons violated these rules in various respects. Surgeons often ran two operating rooms at once and failed to attend the surgical “timeout”. This is a critical moment where the entire team would pause and identify key risks to prevent surgical errors, according to the allegations.

Additionally, surgeons would allegedly enter a second or occasionally a third operation without designating a backup surgeon. At times, the surgeons allegedly hid these activities by falsely attesting on medical records they were physically present for the entire operation.

In addition, medical staff did not inform patients the surgeon would be leaving the room to perform another operation.

The whistleblower will receive $3,075,000 under the provisions of the False Claims Act.

Mineral rights CFO departs after short stint

Evan Kiefer, CFO and Treasurer of Black Stone Minerals, has stepped down with immediate effect.  He has been replaced by Taylor DeWalch as CFO and Dawn Smajstrla as Treasurer.

BSM has its head office in downtown Houston and is one of the largest owners and managers of oil and gas mineral rights in the USA. It has a market capitalization of $3.3 billion. The production underlying the mineral rights is primarily gas and the company hedges the majority of its production. As a result, its share price is not very volatile (52 week range is $14.88 – $18.55).

What’s strange about the announcement is that Mr. Kiefer spent 8 months as interim CFO, but only 7 months as the permanent CFO! Mr. Kiefer joined BSM (technically, the General Partner of BSM) in 2013 as a Financial Analyst. He was appointed interim CFO in March 2023 after the departure of Jeff Wood. He was made permanent CFO in October 2023.

Mr. Kiefer will receive severance of

  • cash payment of $601, 775 (1x annual salary of $250,000 plus 1x target bonus of $250,000, plus pro-rated bonus for 2024)
  • accelerated vesting of 3,628 common units (worth approx $50,000)
  • accelerated vesting of 12,179 performance units ($200,000)
  • elimination of employment-based forfeiture restrictions on 50,893 performance units ($815,000)

Mr. DeWalch joined the company in February 2023 as Director, Strategy & Asset Development. He is a Petroleum Engineer by training and previously worked in engineering roles at Anadarko, Unitex Oil & Gas and Callon Petroleum. Mr. DeWalch is the son of Mark DeWalch, a non-exec director of the company, who has a background in finance and banking. DeWalch Jr. will receive a base salary of $310,000.

Ms. Smajstrla joined BSM in 2015 as the Chief Accounting Officer. She also worked at Anadarko, as well as Goodrich Petroleum and Lime Rock Resources.

SEC filing – 8-K Black Stone CFO severance

Civeo Corporation appoints new CFO

Civeo Corporation has appointed Collin Gerry as its new CFO. He replaces Carolyn Stone, who left in March. Interim CFO Barclay Brewer will revert back to Chief Accounting Officer.

Civeo, based in downtown Houston, provides temporary and long-term accommodations, primarily in the Canadian Oil Sands and Australian natural resource regions. The company has revenues of $700 million and a market capitalization of $356 million. It was spun off from Oil States International in 2014.

Mr. Gerry joined Civeo in 2014 and has been serving as Senior VP of Canadian Operations since May 2020. Prior to joining Civeo, he served as Senior VP within the equity research department of Raymond James and covered Oil States.

Mr. Gerry will receive a base salary of $380,000.

SEC Filing – 8-K Civeo appoints new CFO


Sunnova Energy appoints new CFO

Sunnova Energy International has appointed Eric Williams as its new CFO. He replaces Rob Lane, who will leave the company on June 30.

Sunnova provides solar power systems and other related products such as chargers and energy storage through a network of dealers and partners. Typically, Sunnova funds the initial investment of a system and generates revenue from leasing or power contracts with the customer. The company has its head office in the Greenway Plaza area of Houston.

Mr. Williams was the CFO at Diversified Energy Company, an E&P operator based in Alabama, between July 2017 and September 2023.

Mr. Williams will receive a base salary of $475,000 and a one-time restricted stock and options grant worth $1.25 million. He will also receive up to $100,000 in relocation assistance. He started his career with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Alabama. Mr. Williams later spent 7 years at Houston-based Callon Petroleum, ending up as Director of Investor Relations.

The new CFO will be busy as Sunnova has gross debt of $7.8 billion, which is more than ten times its revenue. Cash flow from operations has been an outflow of at least $130 million in each of the past five years.

At the beginning of May, Sunnova announced it was seeking advice from Moelis & Co about its debt options. There has been no updates since.

SEC filing – 8-K Sunnova appoints new CFO


Noble to acquire Diamond Offshore for $1.7 billion

Noble Corporation has agreed to buy Diamond Offshore for $1.67 billion. Both companies operate in offshore drilling. Diamond has its head office in west Houston, while Noble is in the process of moving its head office from Sugar Land to the Westchase area of Houston.

The consideration split is 64% stock and 36% cash (or approx $600 million cash consideration), with Diamond shareholders projected to own about 15% of the combined company. Noble is also taking on Diamond’s debt of $550 million.

The key assets for Diamond are 4 deepwater drillships and 1 semi-submersible that can operate in harsh environments. In addition, the company has 5 other older semi-submersibles.

Second time a charm

Diamond entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020 and exited a year later, having converted $2 billion of debt into equity. The company put itself up for sale in August 2021, but in January 2022 it announced it would remain independent after failing to attract any satisfactory takeover offers.

Diamond Offshore CEO Bernie Wolford has previously worked for Noble for over 28 years, over two separate stints. It’s also the second time he has been CEO of a company acquired by Noble as he was also CEO of Par Pacific until its acquisition in April 2021.

Noble acquisitions

Noble, which exited its own bankruptcy in February 2021, has been the leading consolidator in the offshore drilling sector. In addition to Par (bought for $358 million), it acquired Maersk Drilling in October 2022 for $2 billion.

Noble expects to realize $100 million in cost synergies. mostly through SG&A savings. The deal is expected to close by the first quarter of 2025.

It’s the latest in a series of merger announcements involving Houston-based public companies;

Investor Presentation – Noble – Diamond

CFO of Carriage Services steps down after 16 months

Kian Granmayeh is to step down as CFO of Carriage Services (‘CSV’) after less than 16 months at the company. CSV appointed Kathryn Shanley, the Chief Accounting Officer, as its interim CFO. Ms. Shanley only joined the company in March, though she spent many years at Service Corporation International (‘SCI’).

SCI is the market leader in deathcare products, having a market share of around 15%. CSV is a distant second, with a 2-3% market share, along with Park Lawn, a Toronto-based company. SCI, CSV and the US-headquarters of Park Lawn, are all based in Houston.

Park Lawn made a preliminary all-cash offer for CSV in June 2023 that was ultimately rejected by the company. Although the deathcare business generates strong cash flows, CSV has high leverage as it has acquired a lot of businesses in recent years. The company has decided to remain independent and improve profitability through organic growth and automation of back office processes.

CSV has engaged an executive search firm to ‘help identify a Chief Financial Officer with the financial sophistication necessary to drive and execute on the Company’s long-term strategic growth plan’.

Mr. Granmayeh joined CSV in March 2023 from Tellurian, a Houston-based public company that is trying to build an LNG export terminal.

What is strange is that the SEC filing states that Mr. Granmayeh informed CSV that he would resign from his position as CFO, effective July 1, 2024. He and the company have negotiated a new separation agreement that has lower benefits than the one he negotiated when he joined the company.

Under the new agreement, Mr. Granmayeh receives;

  • One year’s salary ($500,000) to be paid over the next year
  • Lump sum payment of $250,000
  • Monthly consultant fee of $20,000 to be paid over the next six months

Under his original agreement when he joined, were Mr. Granmayeh to have been terminated without cause, he would have received;

  • Two years’ salary to be paid over the next two years
  • Pro-rata Target Annual bonus (Target is 100% of base)
  • 100% vesting of outstanding awards of restricted stock and stock options

SEC filing – 8-K Granmayeh release


ConocoPhillips to buy Marathon Oil for $22.5 billion

ConocoPhillips has agreed to buy Marathon Oil for $22.5 billion, including $5.4 billion of net debt in an all-stock deal. Both companies have their head offices in west Houston.

The companies have adjacent acreage in the Eagle Ford, Bakken and the Permian Basins. Marathon also has assets in Oklahoma and Equatorial Guinea.

Both companies were part of Standard Oil until its breakup into 34 companies in 1911, following a Supreme Court Ruling. The descendant of Marathon (‘MRO’) started life as an amalgamation of a number of Ohio-based oil producers in 1887, before being acquired by Standard Oil in 1889. The descendant of Conoco (‘COP’) was founded in Utah in 1875 as Continental Oil and Transport Company and was bought by Standard Oil in 1884.

COP has identified $500 million of annualized savings from the deal. Half of that will come from the elimination of duplicate general and administrative expenses. $150 million of savings is expected from the optimization of operating and commercial costs. The remaining $100 million will come from reduced capital costs.

As a result of the deal, COP is increasing its ordinary dividend by 34% once the deal closes. It is also increasing its annualized share buybacks from $5 billion to $7 billion.

In March, MRO announced that CFO Dane Whitehead would be retiring on July 1. Rob White, the Controller and Chief Accounting Officer, was promoted to CFO, effective May 1. With today’s announcement, Mr. Whitehead has agreed to delay his retirement until the deal is closed. He will be an Executive VP and Advisor to the CEO.

The deal is expected to close in the four quarter of 2024.

Investor Presentation