THE new chief executive of Bowleven, Eli Chahin, has defended the decision to move its headquarters from Edinburgh to London claiming costs had run ahead of the progress achieved in the field under the old management team.

Mr Chahin said the shake up completed at the oil and gas firm had put Bowleven in position to maximise the potential of its most promising asset in a way that could help generate value for investors.

“There’s been quite a lot of value destruction over the last few years, there were quite a few disgruntled shareholders,” said Mr Chahin who took charge in March last year following a campaign for change led by the Crown Ocean Capital investment operation. This resulted in former chief executive Kevin Hart being voted off the board along with four other directors.

In January last year Crown Ocean accused Bowleven of significant shareholder value destruction. It said Bowleven had used more than $500 million cash, and paid around $44m remuneration to directors, in the preceding 10 years only to see its share price plunge 90 per cent.

Cameroon-focused Bowleven cut around 30 jobs after last year’s boardroom upheaval .

“It’s unfortunate that you had to go through the restructuring you did but the reality was in the absence of that shareholders would not have been given the chance to recoup their value,” said Mr Chahin.

He said: “I think one of the issues with this company historically was that the G and A (general and administrative cost) was so disconnected from the progress on the top line and I think we’ve got a right-sized organisation.”

Mr Chahin said G and A costs had totalled around $12m annually before he took charge. In March Bowleven said they were running at $0.35m monthly.

The company has been able to reduce its annual accommodation costs from around £400,000 to £35,000 following the move from Edinburgh to London, where it can maintain close contact with partners.

Noting that Bowleven now has six employees, Mr Chahin said the company could operate with a smaller staff after deciding to focus its resources on the Etinde permit offshore.

Bowleven investigated possible mergers and acquisitions under past management and conducted early stage exploration work in as Kenya as well as drilling in Cameroon.

It was offered acquisition opportunities after selling stakes in the Etinde permit in a $250 million deal clinched by Mr Hart in 2014.

The company had around $83m cash at the end of the first half on December 31.

Speaking ahead of the publication of its annual results today, Mr Chahin underlined his confidence that the decision to focus resources on Etinde would pay off.

Noting finds made on the company’s acreage are estimated to contain around a trillion cubic feet of gas he said: “It’s inconceivable that a reserve of this size can not be monetised at such a level that shareholders who have come in over the last two or three years can’t get back the money they have invested.”

Mr Chahin said the fall in the share price following the publication of the results of recent appraisal drilling probably reflected disappointment that the wells did not discover enough additional gas to support a floating liquefied natural gas development.

However, partners in Etinde are assessing a range of options. Mr Chahin hopes they will complete the work in time to make a Final Investment Decision next year on whether to develop the field.

After leaving Bowleven, Mr Hart defended the performance of the company in his 10 years in charge, noting it found a lot of oil and gas off Cameroon but was frustrated by geopolitical factors.

Bowleven shares closed at 25.9p yesterday. They closed at 33.25p on the day Mr Hart lost his place on the board.

The company raised £39m at 327p per share in 2008.