Santos Cuts Debt but Asset Sales Weigh on Quarterly Production

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Santos Ltd. (STO.AU) continued to chip away at its debt burden and costs over the first quarter, although the sale of assets weighed on production and offset a rise in oil prices for the period.

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The Australian oil-and-gas producer said its production slipped 1.3% from the previous quarter to 14.8 million barrels of oil equivalent and sales volumes dropped 15% to 18.6 million barrels, which in turn squeezed revenue, pulling it down 9.2% to US$684 million despite a rise in the average oil price it achieved.

Santos, which has been fighting to cut a debt burden built up in recent years investing in new energy projects including the GLNG gas-export project in eastern Queensland state, said the decline in output largely reflected the sale of Australian operations in southern Victoria state and its Mereenie and Stag assets which more than offset higher output from the GLNG liquefied natural gas venture in Queensland..

The company has targeted a US$1.5 billion reduction in net debt by the end of 2019 through improved operating cash flows and from the sale of infrastructure and noncore assets. It has tied its future to the GLNG operation that counts Total SA (TOT) among its partners, the Exxon Mobil Corp.-led (XOM) PNG LNG operation in Papua New Guinea and projects in northern Australia, Western Australia, and the Cooper Basin straddling South Australia and Queensland states.

It said proceeds from disposals and strong cash flows allowed it to cut debt by US$380 million in the first quarter, taking it to US$3.1 billion at the end of March.

Santos said it continued to expect sales volumes for the year of between 73 million and 80 million barrels and production of 55 million-60 million barrels.

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Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 19, 2017 19:43 ET (23:43 GMT)