By Ross Kelly
SYDNEY--Oil Search Ltd. (OSH.AU) said Tuesday first-half net profit slipped 6.2% after it booked higher exploration expenses attempting to find more natural gas to support an expansion of a US$15.7 billion Papua New Guinea gas-export project.
Net profit for the six months to June 30 fell to US$107.5 million from US$114.5 million a year earlier, broadly in line with the US$106.7 million average of five analysts' forecasts compiled by Dow Jones Newswires.
Oil Search is a major shareholder in the Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)-operated PNG LNG project, which is scheduled to ship its first cargo of liquefied natural gas in 2014. Oil Search had recent drilling success with the P'nyang South well, which could support an expansion of the project to three LNG processing units from the currently planned two at a later date. Drilling of the Trapia-1 well is progressing, as is fresh drilling at the Hides prospect.
The company is also attempting to find a partner for other assets located in the Gulf of Papua. Oil Search said it has received "a range of competitive offers" after closing a data room for the assets, and that talks with potential partners are at an advanced stage.
The company stuck to its annual output guidance of 6.2 million-6.7 million barrels of oil equivalent, despite the temporary shutdown of operations at a key oil terminal in Papua New Guinea following a suspected oil leak.
It declared an interim dividend of 2 U.S. cents per share, unchanged from a year earlier.
-By Ross Kelly, Dow Jones Newswires; 61-2-8272-4692; Ross.Kelly@dowjones.com
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