* 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 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.
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
"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)