Black Sea gas find, Libya oil boost OMV

The first successful Black Sea well has made what could be OMV's biggest gas find ever, the Austrian group said, capping a red-letter day as its Libyan output approached pre-war levels and its results smashed expectations.

The offshore well jointly owned by Exxon Mobil and OMV's Romanian unit Petrom has discovered what could be up to 3 trillion cubic feet (84 billion cubic meters) of gas, it said, citing preliminary estimates.

"This is something that happens just once in a manager's lifetime, and today is the day," Chief Executive Gerhard Roiss told reporters, breaking the news during OMV's 2011 results press conference on Wednesday.

Exploration and production head Jaap Huijskes said officials would meet ExxonMobil counterparts to plan the next steps for the well, which could start up around the end of the decade.

"It is the first successful deepwater well in the entire Black Sea, so this is significant," he said.

"Any production will cost billions and billions of dollars. This is not going to be a cheap development if it proves to be economic, although that is still up for debate."

OMV shares were up 3 percent at 28.44 euros, and Petrom stock up 5.2 percent at 0.4102 lei at 1306 GMT.

"It is too early to determine whether the Neptun block will ultimately prove to be commercially developable or not," cautioned Carmen Arsene, analyst at UniCredit CAIB Securities Romania. "Overall positive, but with impact in the long run."

OMV shares had already rallied on news that it may get output from Libya above pre-war levels this year. Huijskes said OMV production in Libya -- which accounted for a tenth of its total output in 2010 -- was back to 85 percent of pre-war levels.

Libyan production fell sharply when a revolt against Muammar Gaddafi's rule broke out a year ago, forcing OMV to withdraw staff for security reasons.

OMV has a long-term stake there with 12 exploration and production licences and petroleum contracts running up to 2032.

It expects to raise overall output volumes this year at its exploration and production division, which OMV said was also screening acquisition targets in the Middle East, Caspian and Africa regions and preparing to enter new countries.

Operating earnings excluding one-offs and unrealised gains from valuing inventories jumped 29 percent in the fourth quarter to 730 million euros ($968 million), clearly beating even the most optimistic estimate in a Reuters poll of analysts.

It said higher oil prices helped offset missing volumes from Libya and Yemen, where unrest has also disrupted production.

"In Yemen, the security situation remains uncertain. Re-launching production will take longer and will only be approached if this can be achieved safely and sustainably," it said. Yemen had provided 6,600 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) in 2010.

OMV forecast the average Brent oil price would remain above $100 per barrel this year, while the Brent-Urals spread was set to remain tight.

OMV proposed raising its dividend by 10 percent to 1.10 euros per share, while the market had expected no change.

It had already reported that fourth-quarter production edged up to 289,000 boed from 283,000 in the previous quarter.

OMV shares have traded at nearly seven times 12-month forward earnings per share, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine, which weights analysts' estimates by previous accuracy.

That puts it at a discount to peers like Repsol on 10 times and Eni or Total at almost eight times.

(Source: Reuters)

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