OIL INDUSTRY
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Commodities

Li Ka-shing-controlled Husky Energy joins peers in output and spending cuts

Company decides against fourth-quarter dividend payment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 1:07pm

Husky Energy, controlled by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, has joined its international peers in slashing project spending and output as oil prices sink to a 12-year low.

To conserve cash amid the worsening global commodities rout, the company has also suspended its quarterly dividend payment for the fourth quarter of last year, after paying a stock dividend instead of a cash dividend for the third quarter.

“Given the persistent downward pressure on oil prices and the extended lower-for-longer outlook ... no cash or share dividend will be issued for the fourth quarter of 2015,” it said on Wednesday morning.

The Canada-based firm said it expected to produce oil and gas amounting to 315,000 to 345,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) this year, down from it previous plan of 330,000 to 360,000 boe.

At the mid-points of the target ranges, the revision represents a cutback of 4.3 per cent.

Husky has also announced the slashing of its projects capital expenditure plan for this year to between C$2.1 billion and C$2.3 billion, from a previous range of C$2.9 billion to C$3.1 billion, mainly via deferral of “discretionary activities” in Western Canada.

At the mid-points of the budget ranges, the revision represents a 26.7 per cent reduction.

“The updated plan will continue to advance the transition into a low-sustaining capital business while providing flexibility to quickly ramp up production as commodity prices recover,” Husky said.

It expected cost savings from the cutback and other cost-cutting measures to see its break-even point fall below US$40 a barrel on the West Texas Intermediate benchmark by the end of this year, from the mid-US$50s last year.

The company is also looking into the possible sale of some midstream assets, including pipelines and storage facilities, as well as some oil and gas assets in Western Canada.

“This will allow for a more focused capital programme so a larger proportion of capital can be deployed to assets that can deliver higher returns in a lower commodity price environment,” it said, adding it had raised C$100 million by selling assets late last year.

Husky’s announcement came close on the heels of its mainland China business partner CNOOC’s announcement on Tuesday that it had cut its oil and gas output target for this year by 4.7 per cent to 7.7 per cent from the 509 million boe it projected a year ago.

If realised, the plan would see the company’s annual output fall for the for the first time since its went public in 2001.

It also plans to reduce its capital expenditure by at least 10.7 per cent this year, after cutting it by 34 per cent last year.

Neil Beveridge, a senior analyst at American brokerage Sanford Bernstein, said CNOOC’s output target cut was not surprising given the company shut a 50,000 barrel-a-day oil sands plant in Alberta at the weekend that accounted for 3.8 per cent of its total output.

It was closed indefinitely after an unexplained explosion killed one worker and injured another. Chief executive Li Fanrong said on Tuesday the firm was cooperating with the authorities’ investigations.

“While we would have like to have seen deeper capital expenditure cuts, management are clearly retaining the flexibility to cut further should oil prices stay lower for longer,” Beveridge wrote in a note.

CNOOC shares closed the morning session on Wednesday 6 per cent lower at HK$6.59, compared with a 3.8 per cent fall in the Hang Seng Index.