Petroceltic focuses on Algeria

Oil and gas explorer Petroceltic continues to focus on Algeria, where a five-well drilling programme made a sizeable gas condensate discovery at Ain Tsila, estimated at some 5.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. After securing a two-year licence extension to appraise the discovery, Petroceltic, which owns a 75 per cent interest, and its Algerian partner Sonatrach (25 per cent) have planned an appraisal programme of at least three wells, with drilling expected to start in early October.

Progress elsewhere has been mixed. The sale in 2009 of an interest in the company's Tunisian block to PetroAsian fully funded Petroceltic's $14.5m (£9.4m) drilling campaign this year. The first well was dry and the second is currently drilling. In Italy, plans to appraise the Elsa discovery offshore in the central Adriatic have run up against a potential ban on offshore drilling (within five miles of the coast) following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The company had planned to drill a well before year-end at a location that would fall within the ban. Petroceltic will continue with the environmental permitting process, which has reached an advanced stage, while it assesses options for progressing the project.

TOUCH:11.5-11.75p12-MONTH HIGH:21pLOW: 7.85p

Half-year to 30 JunTurnover ($m)Pre-tax profit ($m)Earnings per share (¢)Dividend per share (p)
% change-5---

*Includes intangible assets of $175m, or 9¢ a share £1=$1.55


More analysis of company results

IC View

Uncertainty over the full impact of the Italian drilling ban has weighed heavily on the shares, which trade at a significant discount to Mirabaud's core NAV valuation of 17p a share. With further drilling in Algeria expected to start imminently, which could revive positive news flow and momentum, they remain a speculative buy.

Last IC view: Buy, 13p, 29 Apr 2010

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