UPDATE 2-Statoil banks on gas market rebound after second-quarter profit miss

Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:01am EDT

Related Topics

* Q2 adjusted op profit 32.3 bln crowns vs f'cast 36.9 bln

* Sees 2014 capex at $20 bln, in line with previous guidance

* Still expects to drill around 50 wells

* Could let go another 1,400 workers out of a 23,000 total

* Shares down 2.7 pct (Adds CEO, gas market outlook, Russian JV, shares, analyst)

By Balazs Koranyi and Ole Petter Skonnord

OSLO, July 25 (Reuters) - Norwegian oil major Statoil ASA forecast a recovery in gas prices through the coming year and said it had held back some production in expectation of a market rebound, helping send its earnings well below expectations in the second quarter.

Europe's second-biggest gas supplier after Russia's Gazprom said its European gas prices fell 10 percent from a year earlier and it chose to hold back production, pushing some volumes into 2015 in anticipation of better prices ahead.

State-controlled Statoil, which sharply reduced spending plans earlier this year and announced cost-cutting measures, also said it had laid off around a 1,000 workers so far this year and could let go another 1,400 out of a 23,000-strong global workforce as it improves technical efficiency.

Oil majors around the global have been reducing investments to save cash, and Statoil, the world's most successful offshore oil and gas explorer in 2013, cut capital expenditure by $5 billion over three years after a spending spree on a plethora of projects around the globe.

It has made big discoveries in places such as Canada, Tanzania, Brazil and Norway, but its spending commitments have been so high it has been selling assets to generate funds for projects and dividends.

"Europe needs more gas because domestic production is falling," Lund said. "We believe, and the market believes, that gas prices are going up ... and we are fortunate enough that we can push gas production from 2014 to 2015."

Lund said Statoil was monitoring European sanctions against Russia and would abide by all international rules, but its joint venture with Rosneft aimed at exploring for oil and gas in Arctic fields was progressing as planned.

EARNINGS SHORTFALL

Statoil's second-quarter adjusted operating profit fell 15 percent to 32.3 billion crowns ($5.2 billion), missing an average expectation of 36.9 billion and falling short even of the lowest forecast of any analyst surveyed in a Reuters poll.

The group's shares - which had risen last month to a six-year high of 195.9 crowns - traded 2.7 percent lower at 0718 GMT, trailing a 0.5 percent fall in the European oil and gas index.

"Results (were) below market expectations on lower production volumes and gas prices in Norway," analysts at brokerage Kepler Cheuvreux said in a note. "Although full-year and mid-term guidance was confirmed, we anticipate a negative stock market reaction today."

Statoil sees its 2014 capital spending at $20 billion this year, in line with its previous guidance, and still expects to drill around 50 wells with exploration spending at $3.5 billion.

Although its total production fell 9 percent in the quarter, it said it still expects production to rise 2 percent for the full year when adjusted for divestments and redetermination of ownership in some production licences.

Statoil has been among the best performing energy shares this year, rising 26 percent and outperforming a 9 percent rise in the European oil and gas index. But the shares could have limited upside, given the recent rally and a big fall in European gas prices, some analysts say.

"The Statoil share ... trades at its highest price to earnings multiple and lowest dividend yield in more than five years," Pareto Securities said before the results. "We see the company as fairly valued at the current share price level."

Statoil trades at around 12 times expected 2015 earnings, above an average 10.5 ratio for European majors. (Editing by David Holmes)

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