UPDATE 1-Gulf Keystone confident will ramp up Kurdish oil output
* Sees production at 40,000 bpd by end-2013
* Confident of completing move to main list by year-end
* Proceeding with sale of stake in Akri-Bijeel
* Shares down 4.5 pct (Adds CEO comments, analyst comment, share price)
By Sarah Young
LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Gulf Keystone, fresh from winning a court battle over ownership of oil assets in Iraqi Kurdistan, said it was confident of ramping up production this year to a targeted 40,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).
"With the lawsuit behind us, we can put our head down and run full speed ahead with our plans," Chief Executive Todd Kozel said in an interview on Thursday.
Gulf Keystone said it started commercial production from its Shaikan field in July. The field, discovered in 2009 is the company's prize asset from which it aims to produce as much as 150,000 bpd in the next three years and 250,000 bpd by 2018.
"We expect to exit the year with 40,000 barrels a day of capacity. I believe we're going to meet those targets. We're aiming for October to get up to 40,000, so we've got ourselves a cushion of two months," Kozel said.
The company also said it was confident of success in its goal to move from the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) to the main market before the end of the year.
Shares in Gulf Keystone were down 5.5 percent at 205.75 pence at 1209 GMT.
"The fact that production facility one is at 12,400 bopd is a slight positive, but with production facility two completed in October, we think it is unlikely that the promised 40,000 bpd by year-end will be reached in time," Westhouse analysts said in a note.
Another analyst, who declined to be named, attributed the share reaction to the fact that Shaikan was currently not producing oil because of a request from authorities in the Kurdistan region for reasons not connected to the company. Kozel said he expected output to restart "within days".
The stock is still up by 11 percent since a judge earlier this month dismissed claims by Excalibur Ventures that it was entitled to a 30 percent share in Gulf Keystone's oilfields, removing legal uncertainty that had surrounded the company for over three years.
Some analysts said the ruling could make the company attractive to major oil companies interested in Shaikan, which Gulf Keystone estimates could hold at least 12 billion barrels of oil, making it one of the biggest discoveries made anywhere in recent years.
"There's no doubt the majors are more interested in Kurdistan than they used to be," Kozel said.
"We're not talking to any of them. If something comes along, it comes along," he added.
Posting a loss of $26.4 million for the first half of the year, Gulf Keystone said the ramp-up in production would help it generate steady revenue and fund the expansion of facilities needed to meet its production targets.
"Production should fund most of the work programme and field development," Kozel said, adding that the company expected to spend around $700 million per year gross on building facilities based on its current production profile.
Kurdistan authorities and the central government in Baghdad are disputing control over oil and gas production in the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. Iraq says that ongoing Kurdish exports via truck to Turkey are illegal.
Companies operating in Kurdistan hope to ship oil to Turkey via a new pipeline that is being built by the Kurdistan Regional Government to establish its autonomy, a move that has angered Baghdad.
Gulf Keystone expects to obtain funds also through the planned sale of its 20 percent stake in Akri-Bijeel, another oil field that neighbours Shaikan.
Kozel declined to give guidance on the timing of a deal but said the divestment, first announced in 2011, was proceeding and that PwC and Deutsche Bank had been appointed to handle it.
The company said in 2012 it expected to raise around $500 million from the sale. (Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Paul Sandle and Jane Baird)