An Exciting African Oil and Gas Play


LONDON -- Ophir Energy (ISE: OPHR.L) has had an impressive run of form since joining the London market in July 2011. Its shares have since more than doubled from 250 pence to 533.5 pence, where it is valued at more than 2 billion pounds, cementing its position in the FTSE 250 index.

Ophir's assets span a number of African countries and were boosted earlier this year by the $220 million acquisition of Dominion Petroleum. Ophir also raised $242 million through a share placing in April, and this raised its cash balance to $454 million as of June 30, 2012.

Like most exploration-focused oil companies, Ophir has no revenues and at present is currently loss making. The loss for the first six months came to $24 million, although a further $148 million of exploration expenses were also capitalized on its balance sheet.

Tanzania has been a particular hot spot for Ophir in the last six months, where it is drilling in partnership with BG Group. To date, it has had a 100% success rate with six wells, including Jodari-1, where a resource estimate has been made of 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas.

In other parts of Tanzania, and also in Kenya, Ophir is seeking farm-in partners to help fund its exploration programs, and will be opening data rooms for potential partners during the remainder of this year.

In Equatorial Guinea, Ophir has drilled two wells in a three-well program, with both the first two wells making discoveries. The third well is currently in progress.

Some rationalization of Ophir's portfolio is taking place as well, however. It is pulling out of Uganda and last month sold its interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Soco International for $9 million.

Ophir's chairman Nicholas Smith said:

Ophir cemented its leading position in East Africa with the successful acquisition of Dominion Petroleum, and is now actively exploring the new acreage in Tanzania and Kenya. Our equity placing in April 2012 provided the Group with the necessary funding to further explore the resource potential within Blocks 1, 3 and 4 in Tanzania, and also to progress the rest of our portfolio. We look forward to continuing our active exploration programs through the second half of 2012 in the key plays of both East and West Africa.

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