TEXT-S&P: Murphy Oil ratings unaffected by special dividend
Oct 17 - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services today said its ratings and outlook on El Dorado, AR-based Murphy Oil Corp. (BBB/Stable/--) are unchanged following the announcement that its Board has authorized a special dividend of $2.50 per share, about $500 million total, and a share repurchase program of up to $1 billion that we expect to be completed in 2013. In addition, Murphy announced it has been authorized to the spin-off its U.S. downstream subsidiary Murphy Oil USA, Inc., and that it will continue to pursue the sale of its U.K. downstream assets. Murphy also announced that it hired an investment banking firm to advise it on the possible sale of its Montney and Syncrude assets. Pro forma for the special dividend and share repurchases we expect credit measures to remain adequate for current ratings. In particular, FFO to debt should remain above 50% through 2013. In addition, the potential sale of the U.K. downstream assets and spin-off of Murphy Oil USA are already included in our rating analysis. We would re-evaluate the ratings if Murphy pursued further shareholder initiatives. Given its limited scale of operations relative to investment-grade peers, the sale of either the Montney or Syncrude assets, without offsetting growth from other assets such as the Eagle Ford Shale, would cause us to reassess our ratings.