January 12, 2012 / 12:32 PM / in 6 years

Connacher CEO Gusella steps down, shares rise

(Reuters) - Canada’s struggling oil sands developer Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd CLL.TO said its chief executive Richard Gusella relinquished his position, effective immediately.

The company’s shares, which have lost about 37 percent of their value over the last one year, rose 9 percent to C$1.01 on Thursday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

“We see the change being positive, as investors have been frustrated with the performance of the stock and company in the past,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Benny Wong wrote in a note to clients.

In December, Connacher turned down an unsolicited buyout offer to focus on a joint-venture project despite pressure from investors to explore a sale of the company.

“We believe this event (Gusella’s departure) might open up the possibility of the company being more open to future incoming offers, deals or JVs,” Wong added.

In an interview with Reuters in early January, Gusella had said that the timing was not right for Connacher to sell itself.

The company, which is currently valued at C$385.5 million, has sold off assets in the last one year to fund its oil sands projects in Alberta.

It has cash on hand of C$81.7 million and long-term debt of C$865.5 million as at September 30, regulatory filings showed.

Gusella, who has been at Connacher’s helm for over a decade, also relinquished his position as chairman, president, interim chief operating officer and director.

The company -- Canada’s last independent mid-sized oil sands developer -- named directors Colin Evans and Kelly Ogle as co-managing directors on an interim basis.

Reporting by Arnav Das Sharma in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian, Roshni Menon

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