Hess Corp selling off Int’l assets to focus investments in Guyana oil

Guyana's oil industry is attracting attention. Credit: HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images

US-based oil exploration – Hess Corp – one of the ExxonMobil partners developing the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana has this past year sold off a large portion of its asset base in order to focus on its long-term development of its Guyana assets.

John Barnett Hess, CEO of Hess Corporation

The company has executed some $2.7 billion in oilfield sales this past week as part of its strategy of giving up steady production to help fund what could be one of the world’s biggest discoveries into the next decade.

The oil explorer with operations on five continents said Tuesday that it’s selling North Sea assets off of Norway for $2 billion and seeking a buyer for wells off Denmark.

The news came a day after Hess sold drilling rights in offshore Equatorial Guinea for $650 million. Counting a June deal to sell properties in Texas, the New York-based company has sold off almost $3.3 billion in assets this year.

ExxonMobil Corp, the major partner in the Guyana venture, has said the initial building phase may cost $4.4 billion and take until 2020 to deliver its first oil.

The divestments “all make strategic sense” and “will help bridge the sizable funding gap that Hess faces over the next few years,” Capital One Securities analyst Phillips Johnston said in a note to clients Tuesday.

“These assets have not been competing for capital, so by monetising them, Hess will prefund part of the development of its major Guyana discoveries.”

Hess through its transactions has essentially given up operations that produced 16 per cent of its total oil volumes and almost a quarter of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, he said.

Hess is due to announce its third-quarter earnings on Wednesday. After opening the day up, the shares fell 2.4 per cent to US$44.14 at 00:34h in New York trading. Before Tuesday, the shares had fallen 27 per cent for the year, putting them among the10 worst performances on the S&P 500 Energy Index.

The total sales proceeds are also more than the explorer’s projected share of the Guyana project and some analysts have questioned whether the company was selling too much. Hess has estimated that its share of the project’s initial phase will be about $1 billion.

Hess in a statement said there would be other benefits – $500 million of the proceeds will be used to retire debt next year and the company also gets to cancel $3.2 billion in liabilities for closing and cleaning up the operations it’s selling.

Hess also announced a goal of cutting $150 million in annual expenses, a plan that will lower its per-barrel production costs 30 per cent by 2020, it said.

“We are focusing our portfolio on higher return assets and reducing our break-even oil price,” according to Chief Executive Officer John Hess.



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