Business Irish

Monday 11 December 2017

Petroceltic look to complete delayed $175m bond issue by end of the year

Petroceltic's flagship project is situated in Algeria in Africa
Petroceltic's flagship project is situated in Algeria in Africa

Paul O'Donoghue

Irish oil and gas firm Petroceltic is aiming to complete a $175m bond issue, which is intended to help finance the company's flagship $2bn project in Algeria, before 2016.

The explorer first announced the bond at the end of June, however it was postponed in August with the company citing, among other issues, "volatile market conditions".

The firm planned to use the majority of the funds raised from the bond to contribute towards the cost of the project, which is estimated to come to a total of $2bn.

Petroceltic has a 38pc stake in the field, which geologists believe will provide vast quantities of gas for 30 years.

Algerian company Sonatrach, one of Petroceltic's partners in the venture, is set to carry the cost of the project to the second quarter of next year, however the Dublin-based firm is keen to raise funding as soon as is viable. Swiss-based hedge fund Worldview Capital Management, Petroceltic's largest shareholder with a 29pc stake, had vowed to block the bond from going ahead. Worldview attempted to convene an emergency general meeting to allow shareholders to vote on the bond, however Petroceltic received an injunction from the High Court preventing this.

Announcing its half-year results yesterday Petroceltic said it expects to "recommence marketing in relation to the bond issue, or equivalent financing, in the near future subject to market conditions."

Speaking to the Irish Independent, chief financial officer Tom Hickey said that the firm is aiming to complete the bond, or an equivalent, by the end of the year.

"We would like to get it done by January, getting it done this year is still the objective," he said. "We have put our interest in the project into a separate Algerian asset so it simplifies the process and allows us to go to bondholders with less risk."

The company also revealed yesterday that it has received a number of expressions of interest in regards to its assets in Egypt.

The company has been a beneficiary of Italian energy group, Eni's apparent super-find off the coast of the country. Several weeks ago it said that it had found one of the world's largest natural gas fields off the coast of the northern African country, potentially holding as much as 30 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Petroceltic has a 50pc interest in an exploration block approximately 5km west of Eni's Zohr field, which Mr Hickey says is attracting interest.

"There is a good chance that a portion of it [the Eni find] may extend into one of our licences, which means our geographical prospects are enhanced [and] we have had expressions of interest in the acreage," he said.

The results also show revenue fell from to $38m in the six months to the end of June, down from sales of $96m during the same period in 2014. Losses dropped from $57m to $27m, primarily due to a dramatic reduction in exploration write offs. Production during the period was 15.7 mboepd (thousand barrels of oil equivalents per day), roughly in line with its full-year guidance.

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