UPDATE 1-Oil hunter PGS raises dividend on strong outlook

Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:06am EST

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OSLO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Norwegian seismic explorer PGS said it expects earnings to rise sharply this year, as oil companies boost efforts to find offshore deposits, and raised its dividend by 50 percent.

PGS, whose ships scan the ocean floor in search of oil and gas, has been a major beneficiary of an offshore boom and raised its guidance several times during 2012 on its way to recording 45 percent growth in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

The company said its order book continued to rise despite weak sales in the last months of the year.

The company expects EBITDA to rise to between $940 million and $980 million from last year's $776 million.

Its order backlog rose to $829 million at the end of the year from $761 million just a month before.

Still, fourth-quarter earnings missed expectations, with EBITDA of $162 million compared with a forecast $172 million, due to weak orders, delayed start-ups and ships that were idle, the company said.

Seismic firms are running close to capacity and analysts said the market would easily absorb this year's 5 percent capacity increase as new vessels are already contracted out.

PGS said it would raise its dividend to 1.65 crowns ($0.30) a share, broadly in line with expectations.

($1 = 5.4806 Norwegian crowns) (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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