ACQUISITIONS

Brightoil eyes assets of oil firms leaving China

Ship-fuel supplier sees opportunity in grabbing 'cash-generating' projects from foreign owners

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 1:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 1:22am

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Brightoil Petroleum (Holdings), the mainland's only privately owned supplier of fuel to ocean-going vessels, is in talks with several foreign companies to buy their oil production assets on the mainland as they exit after losing operational control.

The Shenzhen-based firm's new chief executive, Bruce Yung Pak-keung, said some of the talks were preliminary, while one case was more advanced.

Sit Kwong-lam resigned as Brightoil's chief executive yesterday but remains its chairman and majority shareholder.

"Quite a number of production-sharing agreements signed in the past 20 years are close to expiring and the foreign partners lose their operatorship in advance of that," Yung said. "Given there are opportunities elsewhere that give them management control, such as shale oil and gas projects in the United States, they are exiting.

"This trend gives us excellent opportunities to get hold of good cash-generating projects."

Brightoil shareholders yesterday approved the company's US$8.35 billion acquisition of minority stakes in two mature offshore oilfields about 100km southeast of Tianjin from United States oil firm Anadarko Petroleum. State-backed CNOOC has majority control.

The deal, expected to be completed by August 8, would raise Brightoil's proved and probable oil and gas reserves to 83 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe). It currently has reserves of 40 million boe in two natural gas fields in northwest China.

Brightoil chief financial officer Danny Tan Yih Lin said it and would-be partner CNOOC together planned to spend US$1 billion to drill 79 wells near the fields to expand production and slow future declines. Brightoil's share of the expense will be US$360 million.

The spending is projected to see the fields' combined gross output rise to 17.4 million barrels next year and 25.4 million barrels in 2016, after falling to 9.8 million barrels this year from 11.7 million last year and 15.3 million in 2012 due to an operational problem and natural decline.

But according to petroleum consulting firm Sproule International, hired by Brightoil to value the fields, their combined output would peak in 2016 and fall sharply to 8.4 million barrels in 2020 - an average annual drop of 24 per cent. They began production nine to 10 years ago.

Brightoil has in recent years expanded into oil and gas production to balance its volatile and sometimes loss-making oil trading and shipping operations.