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Tullow - Production update prior to AGM

George Salmon | 26 April 2017 | A A A
Tullow - Production update prior to AGM

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Tullow Oil plc Ordinary 10p

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In a brief trading update prior to its AGM, Tullow has confirmed that net debt has dropped by $200m since the year end, and currently stands at $4.6bn.

This figure is prior to receipt of the proceeds from the $750m rights issue of March 2017. Tullow says that around 95% of the rights were taken up, with the remainder sold in a rump placing. The new shares have been trading on the market since 25 April 2017.

Our View

Tullow has been desperately unlucky. Having found vast quantities of oil, it then saw the rug pulled from under its feet when the price of crude plunged, just as the company was fully committed to taking on huge debts in order to develop the new fields.

However, Tullow's lenders have kept the faith, renewing and extending debt facilities through thick and thin, allowing the group to focus on developing its discoveries.

With the bulk of the capital expenditure behind it, Tullow is finally starting to see production rise - with the huge TEN oil field online, production is expected to ramp up further next year. In the longer term the group will be hoping to see returns from its East African operations, with other exploration activities accounting for 25% of next year's significantly lower capital expenditure.

Unfortunately, debt continues to loom large at Tullow. The combination of increased production and falling expenditure should mean it can use cash from operations to pay down the debt mountain. However, the group has, not unexpectedly, decided it needs to speed up the process by turning to shareholders. The issue, combined with the sale of some of it East African assets, should put the group on a firmer financial footing, but there is still plenty of debt to clear.

Tullow deserves credit for its ongoing exploration success, as well as its development achievements. Nonetheless, as its hedging programme unwinds, the group's future cash flows will be dependent on the oil price. This means that until debt is back at manageable levels, Tullow's future remains largely outside of its control.

Current trading

Following February's full year results, where revenue fell 21% to $1.3bn, with gross profit down 8% at $547m, Tullow has provided details on first quarter production.

In Q1 2017, oil production from its West African fields averaged 85,700 barrels of oil per day (bopd). The region primarily constitutes the Ghanaian Jubilee and the TEN fields, which delivered first oil in H2 2016. European gas assets contributed 6,300 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).

Production guidance for 2017 remains unchanged, with the group expecting to average between 78,000 and 85,000 bopd in West Africa, with European production contributing around 6,500 boepd.

Exploration activities have continued, with progress made in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. Earlier this year, the group announced it has agreed a farm-down deal with Total in Uganda for a total consideration of $900m. The deal will see Tullow receive $200m in cash, of which $100m is payable on completion of the transaction, $50m payable on the final investment decision and $50m payable at first oil. The remaining $700m represents reimbursement of a proportion of Tullow's past exploration and development costs.

Operating capital expenditure is expected to fall from $0.9bn to $0.5bn in 2017, of which $125m should be offset by the Uganda farm down deal.

Former CEO, and Tullow founder, Aidan Heavey has stepped up to become Chairman, with Paul McDade moving from Chief Operating Officer to CEO.

Unless otherwise stated, all estimated figures, including prospective dividend yields, are taken from a consensus of analyst forecasts compiled by Thomson Reuters. These estimates should not be taken as a reliable indicator of future performance.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research for more information.