Whirlwind start to exciting role PDF Print E-mail

Anthony Ward proves going with your gut feeling can pay off.


My career really got started when I saw an opportunity and just went for it and going with my gut and not being afraid of challenges has been a mantra of mine ever since.

Born and raised in Sydney, after high school I was ready to study a Bachelor of Business at the Macquarie University.

I virtually had my bags packed when I came up with a concept to start a media facilities and infrastructure company which would provide out sourced services to TV networks in Asia Pacific.

Even though I knew I’d be throwing myself in the deep end, it just felt like the right path for me, so I deferred my studies and went to work instead, hoping I’d ‘float’.

I’ve never looked back and never did go to university.

The company, Television Broadcast Services, grew from strength to strength and over five years we built up a significant services and advisory division, which was actually the opposite of my original concept of providing outsourced services. Instead, we became a trusted advisor to some major media and telecommunications companies.

With my interest in investment banking sparked and, more specifically, the advisory side of it, in my mid 20s I joined a mid-tier investment bank/advisory firm, Meridian Capital Group, as a partner.

It was a pretty exciting time; two of my biggest roles were advising the board of Telstra on a strategic plan for the future and advising on the launch of AirAsia X in Australia – both positions which stretched my knowledge and experience to the full and that I greatly learned from.

Over the years I’ve been involved in a number of different projects spanning a host of industries, from  property development, to transport, aviation, telecommunications and workforce development and recruitment, and more recently mining and resources.

Then last year I was approached by an up and coming ASX junior coal company to assist in taking it from exploration to production.

The mining and resources sector was a completely new one to me but I got that gut feeling again and just wanted to roll up my sleeves and get into it.

So here we are, it’s nearly a year later and I am head of commercial and corporate affairs at Universal Coal – a junior coal developer with thermal and coking coal projects in South Africa – with over 1.9 billion tonnes of JORC compliant resource on our balance sheet, and an incredibly exciting road ahead.

This role sees me oversee all the commercial functions of the company, such as off take agreements, capital raisings, joint ventures, partnerships, and manage all our regulatory, compliance, company secretarial and investor relations. It’s a very wide brief but I enjoy the diversity of the role.

Universal has a unique set up. We are a UK company, listed in Australia with assets in South Africa and our business model is all our own.

For Universal, ‘de-risking’ is a core focus so we can get our coal to market – be it domestic or export – in the most economically efficient way both for ourselves and our shareholders and investors, with minimal risk. We have stood out in 2012 because of this model, doing two capital raises at a premium to market.

Our first development, Kangala – a domestic thermal coal mine which commenced planning in 2006 – is a prime example of that ‘de-risking’ process.

With production set to commence in early 2013, we have already secured an off take agreement for an initial eight year life of mine. The pricing is agreed and it isn’t linked to any commodity benchmarks, so we are essentially immune to the sector’s diminishing coal prices and we can accurately predict our revenue and profitability for that project in these uncertain times.

Off the back of that, we have also recently secured 65 per cent project finance for Kangala from a major bank – unheard of for a junior on a greenfield project.

Alongside Kangala, we have a number of other development projects underway in South Africa, namely the Berenice-Cynus coking coal project with a JORC compliant resource of some 1.2 billion tonnes and production set to commence in 2015.

As for me off the job… Well, there’s not been much of that. My 2012 travel schedule has easily been the busiest of my working life. So far I’ve travelled three out of every four weeks so being home in Sydney is a nice holiday in itself.

Whenever I am home though, I do my utmost to enjoy the water, I live on the harbour so I get out sailing or jet-skiing whenever I can, or I head up to my Hunter Valley vineyard to tend the vines.

It has been a whirlwind 11 months since I started at Universal but perhaps that’s just the way I like it.

I’ve been so lucky to work in so many different sectors in my career and the resources industry is an exhilarating challenge. We’re on an upward trajectory with Universal Coal and I look forward to following it through to production.


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