September 13, 2018 / 7:38 AM / in 7 months

UPDATE 2-Ophir takes $310 mln charge for Africa LNG plan, to move HQ to Asia

* Ophir bought Asia assets from Australia’s Santos

* Firm changed CEO, lost LNG partner in May

* Government threatened to withdraw LNG licence (Adds interim CEO comments, updates stock price)

LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Ophir Energy said on Thursday it would shift its headquarters from London to Asia where it has bought assets and had written down the value of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Africa by $310 million.

The company, whose shares have lost more than 50 percent since the start of the year, said it was still seeking to find a partner to help finance its LNG project in Equatorial Guinea by a December deadline set by the government.

Ophir’s shares, battered largely due to its failure to progress with the LNG plan, were up 0.6 percent at 1300 GMT at 38.31 pence, recovering from earlier losses of 4 percent.

The company, which has little experience of complex LNG projects and a small balance sheet, has struggled to find the $1.2 billion financing it needed for its African plan.

“We haven’t given up on Equatorial Guinea. We’re working very hard,” interim CEO Alan Booth told investors. “We’re in discussions with creditable people with balance sheets that can make this work ... but we’re up against the clock.”

The government told Ophir it would withdraw its licence if funds were not raised by December.

In May, Booth was appointed interim CEO to replace Nicholas Cooper in a shake-up. Schlumberger also quit as a partner in the Fortuna LNG project.

Ophir is still partnered by LNG vessel company Golar , operator of the world’s first converted floating LNG project, which is in Cameroon.

Ophir said in a statement it would “minimise” its exposure to frontier exploration and instead “focus on nearer field exploration opportunities that can drive production growth and/or extend field life”, reflecting a more conservative strategy.

“We propose to downsize our London office, following workforce consultation, and within 12 months establish a fit for purpose Asian based HQ to serve as the hub for our ongoing business” it said, without giving figures for job losses.

Last week, Ophir completed the $205 million acquisition of a portfolio of assets in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh from Australia’s Santos.

That portfolio will form the basis for Ophir’s new headquarters in Asia.

Ophir said revenue for the first half of the year rose 15.5 percent to $102 million, helped by higher oil prices, with output of 11,400 barrels per day, slightly above expectations.

Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki in London and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru Editing by Alexander Smith and Edmund Blair

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