Dart Energy halts share trading ahead of fundraising proposals

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SHARES in Dart Energy, which is hoping to drill for gas in the Central Belt, have been suspended from trading in Australia as the group fleshes out plans for a fundraising exercise.

The Singapore-based firm, which has its European headquarters in Stirling, is currently unable to access a $90 million (£58.1m) loan facility with HSBC due to delays in securing planning approval for its coal-bed methane project near Falkirk.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, Dart requested a halt in trading of its shares “pending the release of an announcement regarding a proposed capital raising”. The shares are expected to remain suspended until Wednesday.

Dart employs 30 staff at Stirling and said earlier this year that its headcount in Scotland would “double in a short space of time” if its Airth project was given the green light.

The group’s plans, submitted to Falkirk and Stirling councils last year, do not involve fracking, but have been criticised by environmental groups who claimed that extracting billions of cubic feet of gas from underneath the Falkirk region would cause more pollution than importing natural gas from abroad.

Mary Church, campaigns co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Dart should give up now before it wastes any more of its investors’ money. Unconventional gas is not wanted and not needed here in Scotland, or anywhere.”

Dart’s proposals have been put to the Scottish Government’s reporter for a decision, and a meeting is due to be held in early October.

With the group focusing its efforts on Scottish coal-bed methane and shale gas prospects in England, it has sold its interest in a Chinese gas joint venture for $20.8m and is seeking to dispose of a range of non-core assets across Australia, Europe and India by the end of this year.

As of 15 August, the firm had cash of A$21.1m (£12.1m), of which A$7.7m is in a “restricted” HSBC account. Full-year results, due next month, are expected to show large writedowns on the value of its assets in Australia.