Apache in shock double-whammy

APACHE has dropped two bombshells in the quarterly reporting season as it flagged selling all of its Western Australian gas assets, not just its 13% Wheatstone LNG stake, and said it would exit the Kitimat LNG project in Canada.
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Media speculation emerged four weeks ago that Apache was in talks over selling its Wheatstone stake.

While Apache confirmed this was on the cards in its recent quarterly, its Kitimat revelations caught Canada's news outlets and government officials by surprise.

"Consistent with the company's ongoing repositioning for profitable and repeatable North American onshore growth, Apache intends to completely exit the Wheatstone and Kitimat LNG projects," Apache said.

"In addition, Apache is evaluating its international assets and exploring multiple opportunities, including the potential separation of some or all of these assets through the capital markets."

Chevron, which is operator of both the Wheatstone and Kitimat projects, told Reuters it would discuss these projects in its conference call on Friday at 11am (US Eastern Time), while its shares closed down 1.9% overnight.

Canada's Financial Post commented that Kitimat was considered a front runner in the country's drive to diversify markets beyond the US and the future of the project was in doubt.

"Obviously if you look at where we are going on our base business and you think about the priority of capital and the time frame associated with LNG projects, specifically Kitimat, it makes sense for someone else to own it that has a different time horizon than we do," Apache chief executive and chairman Steven Farris reportedly told investors on Thursday.

"If you look at what we've got in front of us in terms of these LNG projects and the long-term nature of them and the amount of capital it takes to invest in them, I think that's an easy decision."

In regards to Apache's evaluation of its international assets, The West Australian reported that Farris admitted considering selling its entire WA gas business to appease dissident shareholders as part of his comments in the US overnight.

"There is widespread industry talk that Apache's WA management was caught by surprise by the shift in head office strategy," the newspaper reported.

"But the pressure from activist investors has forced a sudden change in international strategy, and contributed to Farris last week shifting Apache Australia's Perth-based managing director Faron Thibodeaux to the US to run the more important Permian business.

"Apache is yet to provide a timetable on its Wheatstone and broader WA exit."

In terms of its June quarter results, Apache clocked up net income of $US505 million (about $543 million) - a 50% year-on-year fall.

However, its Permian region assets in the US hit record production of 155,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the June quarter - up 26% year-on-year.

"We are excited about our initial results in emerging plays in the East Texas Eagle Ford and Canyon Lime in the US, and the Montney and Duvernay in Canada," Farris said of the quarterly results.

"We continue to broaden and advance our compelling North American onshore portfolio.

"During the quarter, Apache took additional steps in focusing on North American onshore liquids growth by completing the sale of the non-producing Lucius and Heidelberg deepwater developments and divesting selected, primarily gas-producing properties in western Canada and south Texas. This brings our divestments over the last year to $10 billion."

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