Embattled oil explorerAfren(LSE: AFR) is falling once again today after issuing a dismal reserves update, with its shares down 23% at the time of writing.
In particular, as part of the companysannual reserves review, an updated Competent Persons Report of the groups Barda Rash in Iraqi Kurdistan, is expected to a significant reduction in field reserves.
The new CPR is based on thereprocessing of 2012 3D seismic data, as well as the results of the companys Barda Rash drilling campaign. Unfortunately, the updated report is expected to show that gross 2P reserves, initially believed to be 190 million barrels of oil, have fallen to zero, while gross 2C resources will be revised down from 1,243 mmbbls, to around 250 mmbbls.
Plan of action
According to Afrens press release this morning, the Barda Rash field has been troublesome for some time. The oil wells operating on the field havebeen producing higher water cuts than expected, and Afren has struggled with the challenge ofdrilling Barda Rashs complex fractured reservoirs.
However, it now seems as if the group is looking to sell its 60% working interest in the field. According to this mornings press release:
Production from these reservoirs could potentially be achieved with the implementation of recovery schemes requiring significant capital expenditure, which may well be appropriate for a company with a different strategic focus. Furthermore, while recent results at the field have indicated the presence of light oil accumulations from the deeper Triassic Kurra Chine reservoirs, these have a high level of associated Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), which would require significant capital expenditure to develop. In light of the above, the Company is now considering its strategic options for the Barda Rash field.
This seems to suggest that Afren is looking to find a buyer for itsBarda Rash share, which would give the group more time to focus on itscore portfolio in Africa.
Plenty of bad news
Todays reserve news is just the latest in a string of bad news stories to come from Afren. Indeed, over the past 12 months the company has been forced to fire itsCEO and COOfor gross misconduct, production has fallen and income has slumped. There are also serious concerns about Afrens financial position with oil trading below $60 per barrel.
Specifically, City analysts have warned that as AfrensNigerian tax break expiresin 2016, the company is going to struggle to generate enough free cash flow to pay down debt after this expiration. Whats more, with oil below $60 per barrel, according to analysts Afrens much touted Ogo prospect, which containsrecoverable resources of 774 mmbbls, isuneconomical.
Theres still a chance thatNigerian peer Seplat could make a firm offer to buy Afren. Seplat has already approached Afren and under UK takeover rules, Seplat has until 5.00 pm on 19 January 2015 to either announce a firm intention to make an offer for Afren, or announce that it does not intend to make an offer for Afren.
After todays dismal news regarding AfrensBarda Rash field, Seplat could decide to walk away. But with Afrens shares trading at a six-year low, an opportunistic bid could be on the cards.
There’s no guaranteethat Afren will be rescued by a larger peer and for this reason alone I would stay away. But don’t just take my word for it. You should always conduct your own research before making a trading decision.
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