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Premier Oil production continues to impress but investors still wait for refinancing

The outlook for oil production is positive, so is the price environment, but, investors in Premier are eagerly awaiting news of a refinancing.
Premier Oil offshore platform
Premier guides for 75,000 boepd of production this year

Premier Oil PLC (LON:PMO) shares gained in Thursday’s early deals following a positive update which confirmed record production volumes.

The group - which has producing assets in Asia and the North Sea - told investors that output amounted to 71,400 barrels of oil equivalent per day through 2016, which is a 24% improvement on the preceding year.

Looking to the current year, Premier guides for 75,000 boepd but that excludes the anticipated contribution from the Catcher field which is due online later this year.

Premier told investors that ‘all substantial commercial terms’ have now been agreed for a pivotal debt refinancing, but, the new arrangement is not yet done.  It revealed that the long form term sheet for the new debt is at an advanced stage, and it expects to publish the full details shortly.

At the end of December it owed US$2.8bn, representing a narrowing in the fourth quarter as previous forecast by the company.

“Our debt refinancing is nearing completion which, together with the improving commodity price environment, will enable us both to accelerate debt reduction and to progress future growth projects,” said Tony Durrant, Premier Oil chief executive.

In terms of financial metrics, the company said operating expenses amounted to US$15.7 per barrel in 2016, and it highlighted that capital spending was below guidance (at US$690mln for the year, versus a budget of US$730mln).

Premier confirmed that it expects to shortly announce the approval of the development concept for the Tolmount project, which will provide the group with its next phase of production growth.

Separately, Premier highlighted that it had upped its stake in the large Zama exploration prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, where a well is due to spud in the second quarter.

Reference to the Falklands – where Premier has interests in the Sea Lion project and other new discoveries – remained somewhat low-key as the company emphasised that it is continues work to secure a financing solution that would allow it to move towards project sanction.

Some 800mln barrels of resources have thus far been unearthed in the waters around the South Atlantic islands, but, Premier is seeking an additional development partner before it gives the green light for development (it presently owns 60% of the Sea Lion alongside AIM quoted Rockhopper Exploration, which has 40%).

Caren Crowley, analyst at Davy, in a note said: “There is a lot of good news in Premier Oil’s trading update.

“It includes record production, further cost savings at Catcher and contained net debt.

“Refinancing negotiations continue but are not yet complete.

“We think the good news is already in the share price with the stock up 24% year-to-date versus a 7% increase in the UK E&P sector index and a 3% decline in Brent oil.”

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