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Cairn Ditches Broker In Advisers Shake-Up

(c) Sky News 2013

The FTSE-250 oil and gas explorer Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE.L - news) is parting company with one of its key City advisers a year after it became engulfed in a shareholder row over a multimillion pound bonus for its founder.

I understand that Cairn has appointed Jefferies Hoare Govett as one of two joint corporate brokers, a coup for the bank as it muscles its way into the fiercely-competitive market to advise the bosses of Britain's biggest public companies.

Jefferies, which acquired the historic Hoare Govett franchise from Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS.L - news) (RBS) almost a year ago, replaces Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML), and will work alongside Morgan Stanley (Xetra: 885836 - news) .

Its appointment follows a damaging dispute last year which saw Cairn forced to drop a plan to pay Sir Bill Gammell, the former Scottish rugby international who is the oil company's founder and chairman, a £2.5m bonus as part of a wider capital return to shareholders.

A rebellion led by the Association of British Insurers came amid disappointing drilling results from Cairn's operations in Greenland.

The advisory shake-up is unconnected to the bonus row, insiders said on Thursday, but is nevertheless a blow to BAML's corporate broking franchise soon after it also parted company with Sports Direct, the high street retailer.

Last year, Andrew Osborne, one of the Wall Street bank's key oil and gas bankers, left amid a Financial Services Authority probe into insider trading.

Mr Osborne was hit by a £350,000 fine but was not guilty of any wrongdoing that resulted in personal gain, and has since moved on to work elsewhere in the resources sector.

Cairn has been one of the major success stories of the oil and gas sector in recent years.

The company was established in 1988 and at today's closing share price has a market value of £1.75bn, while it also holds a stake in sister company Cairn India worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Last year the company returned billions of pounds to investors after the sale of a large chunk of its Indian operations. It has since set out plans to invest more than £1.5bn in further exploration activity, including in Malta, Morocco and Spain.

Jefferies' recruitment by Cairn provides vindication of its purchase of the Hoare Govett business from RBS. The corporate broking business is viewed as a crucial conduit for companies in their relations with shareholders.

Cairn declined to comment.

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