Volga Gas shares soar after adviser ‘sends WhatsApp texts to fake director’

An outside adviser for a multimillion-pound oil and gas firm listed in London may have inadvertently sent shares in the company soaring last week when they texted someone pretending to be one of the company’s directors.

Volga Gas, whose shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange, said that on Thursday a consultant with access to confidential information about a plan to sell the company had sent several WhatsApp messages with “a person purporting to be a non-executive director”.

Shares in the company rose significantly after the conversation, the Russian energy producer said.

It did not reveal when the exchange happened. However, the company’s shares were up around 50% when markets compared to a low of 18p earlier in the day.

The release from the company did not say what the consultant revealed to the unknown person behind the WhatsApp number. However, they did have access to sensitive information.

Volga is in the process of looking for a buyer, and said it has had several non-binding expressions of interest.

The potential bidders have agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement.

“The company looks forward to engaging with all potential offerors in a constructive and positive manner through the FSP (formal sale process) to achieve an outcome that maximises value for Volga Gas shareholders,” Volga said.

Shares spiked by as much as 28% following the news on Monday, settling later to a rise of around 4%.

Volga owns five licences in the Volga region of Russia. It explores and produces oil, natural gas and gas condensate.

The company has around 9.1 million barrels of oil equivalent in proven and provable reserves, according to an assessment from earlier this year.

The company is chaired by Mikhail Ivanov and its chief executive is Andrey Zozulya, both veterans of oilfield services company Schlumberger.