Spanish oil major Repsol has abandoned its growth ambitions to focus on protecting its investment grade rating and ensuring a generous dividend against a backdrop of lower crude prices. The strategy shift came just 10 months after Repsol bought Canadian peer Talisman in an US$8.3 billion deal that boosted its international profile and output but increased its debt and put the company on the back foot to weather the energy prices slump. Echoing similar moves from European competitors, Repsol said it would step up asset sales, trim exploration and production investments and cut costs in order to generate more cash, pay back debt and maintain its dividend of € 1 per share. “The growth history of Repsol is over, now we will be focusing on efficiency,” chief executive Jose Jon Imaz told analysts after presenting a new 2016-20 strategic plan. “We can't be everywhere doing everything. We have to focus where we are better than others or where we can compete with others.” Repsol said it would sell assets worth €6.2 billion by 2020, starting with the most capex-intensive ones and those that presented higher profitability risks. Imaz said any potential sale of part or all of the 30 per cent stake in Gas Natural, currently not under consideration, would come on top of that. Repsol also committed to cut capex by about 40 per cent in the next four years while the company would deliver annual synergies and efficiency savings of €2.1 billion by 2018. That would enable the group to generate €10 billion of cash by 2020 that would be used to almost halve its ¤ 14 billion debt and return about €3.6 billion to shareholders. Imaz said Repsol would consider increasing the dividend or paying more of it in cash if energy prices recovered. Analysts welcomed the steps taken by the management to ease the financial pressure on the group's balance sheet but said delivering some of the targets would be tough to achieve. They also said the refining margin target of US$6.40 per barrel contained in the plan looked ambitious given the US$3.80 per barrel average margin achieved since 2010. The refining margin, which was close to record highs at US$8.90 per barrel in the third quarter, has helped shore up the balance sheet so far this year and any reduction would hit profits. Repsol has said net profit could fall by up to 22 per cent this year, hit by low oil prices and a loss of value of some of its North American assets that will trigger a €450 million impairment charge in the third quarter. It said it was still aiming for a full-year increase in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation but it switched to a target cleaned of inventory effects (CCS), which is deemed easier to achieve. The firm previously saw ebitda at between €5 billion and €5.5 billion this year, or an increase of up to 45 per cent from last year. It now sees CCS ebitda at between €5.2 billion and €5.45 billion, or an increase of up to 15 per cent. Repsol targets a CCS ebitda of €7.9 billion by 2020.