Conoco to spill more details on split

HOUSTON Tue Sep 6, 2011 5:17pm EDT

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips (COP.N) will divulge more details on Wednesday about its plan to split in two and analysts say the focus will likely be on its chemical joint venture, Canadian oil sands assets and pipelines.

In July, ConocoPhillips sketched out a plan to spin off its refining arm as part of its effort to boost shareholder value. At the time, it remained mum about where some assets would go, either to the refining arm or the exploration and production company.

Now, more details are expected to come from Chief Executive Jim Mulva in scheduled remarks at the Barclays CEO Energy-Power conference in New York on Wednesday morning.

Marathon Oil Corp (MRO.N), a much smaller competitor, has announced a similar plan, but ConocoPhillips, unlike Marathon, has a maze of joint-venture deals, thousands of miles of pipeline and sophisticated assets that make its split more complicated, analysts said.

"I think we won't see as clear a break up as we did with Marathon," said Allen Good, an analyst with Morningstar. "They may have to get more creative with their joint-venture partnerships."

For example ConocoPhillips has partnerships with Canada's Cenovus Energy Inc (CVE.TO). The partners have Foster Creek and Christina Lake producing assets, as well as two U.S. refineries.

Foster Creek and Christina Lake are expected to stay with ConocoPhillips' exploration and production business, the company and analysts have said, but the fate of the refineries is less clear.

A representative from Cenovus said the company expects any change to be administrative, rather than operational.

"As far as the operations of both the upstream and the downstream, it will just continue as it has always been as far as we're concerned now," Cenovus spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari said. "We're waiting for more details from them as well."

Analysts at Simmons & Co International, a Houston-based energy investment bank, said the company's exploration and production business will likely focus on five regions -- Alaska, the lower 48 U.S. states, Canada, North Sea and Asia Pacific.

ConocoPhillips has also indicated it will sell two U.S. East Coast refineries -- one in Linden, New Jersey and the other in Trainer, Pennsylvania -- as part of its plan to shed older, less productive assets, according to Simmons.

A ConocoPhillips spokesman denied the report about the possible sale of two East Coast refineries.

Simmons also said it expects DCP Midstream Partners LP (DPM.N), Conoco's oil and natural gas gathering and processing venture with Spectra Energy Corp (SE.N) and Chevron Phillips, Conoco's chemical joint venture with Chevron Corp (CVX.N), to end up with the refining arm.

Others see parts of the DCP business fitting with both arms of the company.

"The problem with DCP is that some of the assets fit with upstream," said Phil Weiss, an oil analyst at Argus. "And it's got some pipeline assets that really fit with the downstream. Maybe in the interim they do a services agreement."

Conoco shares fell 74 cents, or 1.1 percent, to close at $65.70 on the New York Stock Exchange trading.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Jones in Calgary and Kristen Hays in Houston; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Andre Grenon)

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