Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Conoco Considers Exit from Nigeria, Libya, Three Others.


By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku

ConocoPhillips, a Houston-based integrated energy company and key player in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector has announced plans to sell between $5 billion to $10 billion worth of non-core assets in Nigeria, war-torn Libya and three other countries.

The company said in its annual analyst meeting that the sale might include exits from countries where its interests are not large. Details of the planned divestment was however not provided.

The energy giant with operations in 49 countries has an interest in four onshore oil mining leases (OMLs) and exploration rights in one Nigerian deepwater oil prospecting lease (OPL) and one deepwater OML. In addition, ConocoPhillips has an interest in a gas-fired, combined cycle power plant. The company also has a stake in oil production through its 20percent holding along with Agip (20percent) and NNPC (60percent) in the Brass River crude oil field.

Exploration and production of oil and gas is a key part of the ConocoPhillips business portfolio. The company’s output in Nigeria was 20,000 barrels of oil per day and 141 million cubic feet of natural gas.

Argus oil analyst, Phil Weiss revealed at the weekend that Conoco’s plans to sell its interest in oil and gas properties will Libya and Kazakhstan as part of planned asset divestment.

"Selective country exits are also possible. Candidates would be Nigeria, Vietnam, Libya, Algeria and Kazakhstan," Weiss wrote in a note to clients at the weekend after a meeting with Conoco's chief financial officer and head of investor relations.

Conoco is in the midst of a plan to boost shareholder returns with share buybacks and higher dividends. Proceeds from the asset sales, expected to total as much as $17 billion, will be used to fund that program.

In Libya, Conoco holds a 16.3 percent interest in the Waha concessions, where net oil production averaged 46,000 barrels per day (bpd) last year.

In the Caspian Sea, Conoco has an 8.4 percent interest in the Kazakhstan's North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement, which includes the Kashagan Field. First production from that project is expected in late 2012. Shares of Conoco rose 45 cents to $80.15 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company has approximately 56,000 employees worldwide and assets of $75 billion. ConocoPhillips stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Citing Nigeria’s turbulent oil and gas sector, British Gas (BG) Exploration and Production last year threatened to pull out of Nigeria despite the investment of over $500 million in its exploration activities on the offshore blocks OPLs 332, 286-DO and 284-DO since 2004.

BG Nigeria is 100 per cent owned by BG UK Plc. The company was a major partner in the multi-billion dollars Olokola (OK) LNG project in Ogun and Ondo states before it indicated plans to divest in August, last year.

As part of moves to close its operation in the country, sources said the company had planned to terminate appointments of over 100 remaining Nigerian in its employ.

Also, a 10-man transitional management team, headed by the company’s Managing Director, Mr. Ademola Adeyemi-Bero, was said to have been directed by the parent company, BG Group, United Kingdom to oversee an orderly liquidation process and commence winding-up proceedings before the end of the year.

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