The activistinvestor Carl Icahn is misguided in his demand that Cheniere Energy Inc. return cash to shareholders, the LNGexporter's ousted CEOand co-founder said in a television interview.
"[T]here'sno cash to return until 2019 because the cash flow from the early [LNG liquefaction]trains is paying for the later trains. He didn't understand that," Charif Soukisaid April 26 on Jim Cramer's CNBC show "Mad Money." "[E]ven whenyou get to 2019, you have a choice: You either continue to invest in the companyor you distribute cash to the shareholders. You cannot do both."
Thatdifference of opinion with Icahn led to Souki's December 2015 , but the serial entrepreneur toldCramer it was an "amicable" parting.
"Istayed [on the board] for a couple of months because I'm still a significant shareholderand I wanted to make sure that the strategy they had chosen was really what theywanted to implement," he said.
Souki,who individually held 1.27% of Cheniere's outstanding shares as of Feb. 12, accordingto S&P Global Market Intelligence data, has already moved on. In February, justdays before Cheniere exported the first U.S. LNG cargo from the Lower 48, Soukiand Parallax Enterprises LLC founder Martin Houston launched a new natural gas liquefaction and export companycalled Tellurian Investments, which will offer mid-scale projects along the GulfCoast. The company plans to put 12 million tonnes of LNG production online in 2021and expand to 30 million to 40 million tonnes over the long term. Souki told CNBC'sCramer that he has personally invested $15 million in Tellurian Investments andraised $24 million from outside investors.
"We'reconcluding our early stages of fundraising in the near future," Houston toldS&P Global Market Intelligence in a Feb. 24 interview. "Then we will go on the road with the institutionalfundraising, so we'll get our war chest together, which will take us through thedevelopment phase, and then in 2018 we'll start to raise significant amounts ofdebt and equity."
Tellurianselected Chart Industriesto create its liquefaction technology and will partner with Bechtel to constructthe plants.