Santos savaged by impairments

TODAY was always going to be a bloody one for Santos, but this morning it revealed an eye-watering $2.7 billion loss off the back of staggering pre-tax impairments of $3.9 billion and lower oil prices, despite its reporting best production numbers since 2007.
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Haydn Black

Reporter

After tax its impairments were $2.8 billion while EBITDAX was down 17% to $1.9 billion.

The company really couldn't even crow about its underlying profit either, it was a mere $50 million, down 91%.

Production

The company's production was up 7% to 57.7MMboe as Gladstone LNG chipped in, the highest level since 2007, however with the average realised oil price down 48% sales revenue plummeted 20% to $3.2 billion.

The company also revealed its GLNG Train 1 is regularly exceeding 110% of nameplate capacity and 16 cargoes shipped to date, although the average price of LNG was $US8.94/MMBtu, 40% lower than the prior year.

Despite that the LNG business saw its revenue up over 40% following the start-up of GLNG and strong performance from PNG LNG and Darwin LNG.

Writedowns

Burning a hole in Santos' proverbial pocketbook are the company's Cooper Basin gas producing assets, GLNG assets and Gunnedah Basin assets, all of which have reduced in value.

The Cooper Basin assets comprised the largest part of the writedown ($2.09 billion) while the value of the Gunnedah Basin CSG assets plunged by $588, GLNG dropped by $565 million and a suite of other production including WA oil assets, Chim Sao in Vietnam, Denison in Queensland, SE Gobe in Papua New Guinea, Patricia Baleen in Victoria and Mereenie in the Northern Territory slipped by $541 million.

Other exploration and evaluation assets, including licences in PNG, Malaysia's Block S and Santos' Cooper unconventional upside, were written down by $97 million.

Assets held for sale were also written down to the tune of $38 million, most of which was in the Kipper field, sold last year.

Reserves

As a consequence of the oil price and a decision to reclassify the Gunnedah Basin CSG reserves as contingent resources 2P reserves are 24% lower (133MMboe) than 2014 at 954MMboe, enough for around 16 years of production based on 2015 output levels.

The 2P reserves in the Cooper gas business were down 19% (38MMboe) before production due to lower oil price assumptions, although 1P reserves for GLNG increased 15%.

2C contingent resources increased by 8% (32MMboe) to some 1.8Bboe largely thanks to the Gunnedah reclassification, the integration of successful appraisal drilling results in the Barossa field in the Timor Sea and exploration drilling, such as the Bestari oil discovery offshore Malaysia.

Reaction

Santos chairman Peter Coates said the loss was entirely down to the impact of lower global energy prices, and not the underlying performance of the company.

"Despite the continued pressure on the oil price, operationally the business performed well in 2015 with Santos delivering its highest production in seven years, best safety performance on record and the successful start-up of the GLNG project which has shipped 16 cargoes to date," he said.

"It is a credit to management and staff to have maintained focus on safe and effective operations and project delivery in the face of the destabilising market conditions during the year."

Echoing both Woodside and Origin Energy, both of which also posted large losses this week, Coates said the company was in a "strong position" to manage through a period of low oil prices.

Last year Santos raised $3.5 billion to reduce debt, cut capital expenditure by half on 2014 levels to $1.7 billion and lowered production costs per barrel by 10% down to $14.40/boe compared to its sales average of $US54 per barrel.

"With $4.8 billion in cash and committed undrawn debt facilities and no material drawn debt maturities until 2019, Santos is well placed to deal with the short term challenges," Coates said.

New Era

The job of turning Santos around is now in the hands of new managing director Kevin Gallagher, who started with the company from Clough at the start of the month.

Gallagher said he was confident that Santos' broad asset portfolio and strengthened balance sheet provides a platform for the company to deliver stable returns to shareholders.

"My priority now is to assess our operations and put in place the right strategy to ensure that Santos is sustainable in a low oil price environment, while positioning the company to take full advantage of rising commodity prices in the future," Gallagher said.

Net debt at the end of 2015 was $6.5 billion, comprising of $7.7 billion in gross debt and derivatives less cash of $1.2 billion, and as long as oil stays at around $US32/bbl that debt should remain flat for 2016, with the first material payments due in 2019, a time when Santos hopes oil will return to selling for $US75/bbl.

The company reaffirmed its 2016 production guidance is maintained at between 57-63MMboe, and capital expenditure guidance has been cut to $1.1 billion.

It announced a final dividend of five cents per share, fully franked, bringing the full-year dividend to 20cps.

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