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Maiden dividend at Dragon

DRAGON Oil, the Dublin-listed energy explorer focused on Turkmenistan, will pay a maiden dividend after sales and profits jumped last year.

The company's board agreed to pay a full-year dividend of 14 US cents a share, Dragon said yesterday after its cash balance rose to $1.3bn with no debt. Profit after taxes soared 49pc to $386.1m in 2010. Dragon's principal asset is the Cheleken Contract Area in the Caspian Sea, offshore of Turkmenistan.

"We will continue to maintain the current level of dividends," chief executive officer Abdul-Jaleel al-Khalifa said. "But we want to maintain flexibility" depending on acquisitions and cash flow.

Dragon, which plans to increase oil output by 10pc to 15pc a year through 2013, may acquire some assets or companies this year to expand its operations in the Middle East, central Asia and north and west Africa, Mr al-Khalifa said.

The company plans to invest as much at $700m in oil infrastructure through 2013, including $250m this year, the company said yesterday.

The Middle East and north African unrest hasn't "impacted" the company plans, Mr al-Khalifa said.

"Our area of interest includes the countries that are stable and perspective."

Shares in Dragon closed up 2.6pc at €6.75 in Dublin yesterday, extending their gains this year to 7.8pc and giving the company a market value of €3.5bn.

Average production climbed 5.5pc to 47,211 barrels of oil a day last year, with daily output reaching 57,013 barrels at the end of 2010, the company said in a January statement. The explorer raised oil and condensate reserves to 639 million barrels and booked 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

"Dragon Oil enjoyed a record year in terms of revenues generated and the number of wells drilled," Mr al-Khalifa said. "We have a strong platform to deliver on the upper end of our production forecast this year."

"We're looking very diligently to west Africa. We're looking at offshore and onshore, we're looking for some exploration upside as well," Mr al-Khalifa added.

Irish Independent