* Eni makes makes "new and important" gas find
* Output growth in 2012 underpinned by Libya
* Q2 adj net 1.46 bln euros vs consensus 1.542 bln
* Interim dividend rises to 0.54 euros
By Stephen Jewkes
MILAN, Aug 1 Italian oil and gas group Eni
said on Wednesday it had made a "new and important"
natural gas discovery at its bumper Mamba field off Mozambique.
State-controlled Eni, the world's sixth-biggest
international oil group, also said it expected output for the
year to increase but only thanks to a recovery of production in
Libya which is expected to return to pre-war levels by year end.
Libya, which previously accounted for some 15 percent of its
output, will offset delays at important start-ups, the shutdown
of the Elgin-Franklin platform in the North Sea, and the rapid
rise in sabotage and thefts in Nigeria, Eni said.
Eni, one of the largest foreign oil and gas producers in
Africa, said the new discovery at its Mozambique field would
take gas in place to an estimated 1.974 billion cubic metres.
Over the past year, Eni has dispelled some concern about its
profitability and long-term growth potential by sealing a deal
with Russia's Rosneft and scoring exploration
successes in Norway and, notably, in Mozambique.
"There was some disappointment on the upstream performance,
but that's more than offset by the enthusiasm for new
discoveries like Mozambique," said Jason Kenney, an analyst with
The Mamba field in Mozambique is Eni's biggest gas discovery
as operator. The group has 70 percent of the find and is
prepared to bring partners on board to help fund the estimated
$50 billion it will take to bring it to production.
"There was a real buzz in the offices when the discovery was
announced last year. It was clear from the start it was a major
discovery," a source close to the company told Reuters.
Key projects in Africa represent some 55 percent of Eni's
volumes, the highest proportion of any big oil major.
State-controlled Eni is in the process of selling its
controlling stake in gas grid operator Snam in a deal
that could raise around 7 billion euros in cash and remove 11
billion euros in debt from its balance sheet.
The group, which is also selling a 33 percent stake in
Portugal's GALP, intends to use the cash to cut its
debt to better focus on oil and gas production.
"Eni will be transformed by the sale of Snam and the
strengthening of its balance sheet," Kenney said.
Eni missed expectations when it reported an underlying
adjusted net profit in the second quarter of 1.46 billion euros,
undermined by weakness in its gas marketing and refining
divisions as well as higher exploration costs. That compared to
a Reuters poll of nine analysts that had forecast an average of
1.542 billion euros.
At 0830 GMT Eni shares were up 0.42 percent while the
European oil and gas sector was up 0.02 percent.
"It reported a loss of 369 million euros at its gas and
power division which is worse than last year's result even
though it includes benefits from its renegotiation of gas
contracts," a Milan-based analyst said.
The group renegotiated its long-term gas supply contracts
with Russia's Gazprom in March with retroactive effect
Eni said it would offer an interim dividend of 0.54 euros
compared to 0.52 euros a year earlier. The group's policy
envisages a rise in its dividend in line with OECD inflation.
Eni has excluded any extraordinary dividend relating to the
sell down of its Snam stake but some analysts have said the
company could sweeten its dividend policy further down the line.
"Through the divestment of our stakes in Snam and Galp our
balance sheet will be transformed, securing our capacity to
finance robust long-term growth in any market environment. Our
confidence in Eni's outlook underpins my proposal of an interim
dividend of 0.54 euros per share," Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni said.