LONDON Feb 6 Britain's Premier Oil said
it was seeking a partner for an oil development in the Falkland
Islands in order to reduce its exposure to the $5.2 billion
project and make higher payouts to shareholders.
The company said at a capital markets day on Thursday that
it wanted another company to invest in the Sea Lion project off
the coast of the remote British territory in the South Atlantic
before it would give the green light to the development.
Premier is attempting to win back investor support after
successive downgrades to output last year. On Tuesday its
long-standing chief executive, Simon Lockett, said he would be
stepping down, which led to hopes for a revival in the company's
Premier said a deal for Sea Lion, which could start
producing oil by late 2018, was already in motion.
"We have started talking to people, but we won't go and
formalise a process until we've got engineering estimates around
the fourth quarter of this year," Premier's Falkland Islands
director, Neil Hawkings, said.
Royal Bank of Canada analyst Nathan piper said the move came
from "a combination of what shareholders have told them plus
probably what's good practice from a capital management point of
Premier told investors it would look to dispose of other
assets as well, enabling it to enhance the returns it pays them.
Across the oil sector, but primarily in large companies such
as Shell and BP, shareholders are calling on
firms to control spending and return spare cash, amid concerns
over rising costs and the returns available if oil prices drop.
Eighteen months ago, Lockett led Premier into the Falklands,
signing a $1 billion deal with explorer Rockhopper that
was intended to transform the archipelago into an oil producer.
Premier's move, which gave it a 60 percent stake in the Sea
Lion oil field, drew criticism from some parts of the market,
Argentina, which 30 years ago fought a war with Britain over
the islands it calls the Malvinas, claims the Falklands as its
own and has sought to disrupt oil exploration there.
Shares in smaller company Rockhopper closed up 9.5 percent,
which analysts attributed to Premier's restating of its
commitment to Sea Lion following doubts brought about by
Lockett's planned departure.
Premier's stock, which has lost about a quarter of its value
over the past year, closed little changed.