Cairn expansion campaign eases pressure on Greenland

CAIRN Energy’s campaign to expand its horizons has eased the pressure on the oil explorer to deliver the goods in Greenland, where its efforts have so far proved fruitless.

Analysts said the group, which publishes its half-year results on Tuesday, is poised to benefit from “very attractive” positions it has built up off the coasts of Morocco and Senegal over the past year.

Although Edinburgh-based Cairn expects to resume drilling in Greenland next year, alongside partner Statoil, all eyes are now on its assets in the Atlantic margin. Earlier this month the firm expanded its reach in the region by taking a stake in a project off the coast of Mauritania.

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One oil and gas analyst said: “As with any portfolio of assets, you need diversification. Morocco and Senegal provide that, whereas before it was just India and Greenland. Now they’ve got their fingers in lots of pies. That’s what people were looking for after the Greenland failures.”

Any exit from Greenland is seen as highly unlikely, given the huge scale of the prospect. Cairn estimates there are more than six billion barrels of oil waiting to be found.

One City source said: “They’ve done their part on the Greenland programme and the amount of cash they spend there is going to be significantly lower, because the next well they’re drilling is partly funded by Statoil. That removes a lot of risk.”

Analysts at Oriel Securities, which recently upgraded Cairn’s shares to a “buy” rating, said that the group’s strong balance sheet will enable it to return to “high-impact” exploration towards the end of this year, while it could embark on a new campaign in Senegal early next year.

If needed, the firm could raise more funds by selling down its remaining stake in Cairn India, the broker said.

Chief executive Simon Thomson has acknowledged the 10 per cent interest will be sold “at some point”, although he said it was happy to keep its holding for the time being.

One analyst said the value of the stake, worth $1.1 billion (£703.6 million) at the start of the year, has been hit by sharp falls in the Indian rupee, 
“but there’s no rush to get out”.

This week also brings results from Bridge Energy, the Aberdeen-based driller that is quoted on London’s Alternative Investment Market and the Oslo stock exchange.

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Sam Wahab, an oil and gas analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald who has a “buy” rating on the firm’s shares, said Bridge’s portfolio boasts a “strong inventory of undeveloped gas discoveries, representing a sustainable business platform for production and exploration growth in the North Sea”.

Work began last week on two exploration wells in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea in which Bridge has a stake. The firm, led by chief executive Tom Reynolds, will post half-year figures on Thursday, having delivered average production of 1,100 barrels a day in the first quarter, up from 873 barrels a year earlier. It is targeting acquisitions to deliver further growth.