By Angela Macdonald-Smith


The man responsible for the “Kevin premium” enjoyed in Santos stock in recent times stands as the key to the support among many Oil Search investors for a $21 billion merger.

Kevin Gallagher’s work to turn around Santos from a struggling, debt-ridden oil and gas producer in early 2016, when he took up the reins, to its current position of strength to drive the creation of the country’s biggest oil and gas producer has won plenty of plaudits.

Analysts such as Credit Suisse’s Saul Kavonic have long talked about a premium baked into the Santos share price given the market’s regard for his disciplined management approach.

At the same time, Keiran Wulff’s shock departure as Oil Search CEO two weeks ago and doubts around chairman Rick Lee’s continued tenure after misleading comments about a merger approach have eroded confidence in Oil Search’s top leadership.

And many investors are happy to bet again on Mr Gallagher being able to lead Oil Search out of its current tricky situation and make the most of its high-quality assets, dominated by its prized position in LNG in Papua New Guinea.

Read more in the Australian Financial Review.