Petroceltic to expand assets in north Africa

IRISH exploration company Petroceltic is actively looking at the likes of Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Syria in its bid to broaden its portfolio of assets into new markets.

Addressing shareholders at its annual general meeting in Dublin yesterday, chief executive Brian O’Cathain said that management is increasingly focused on new opportunities and that “our target is transformational growth”.

The Dublin-headquartered company is chiefly active in Italy and Algeria, having recently left Tunisia.

Mr O’Cathain said the company will focus on its onshore assets in Italy (changing legislation there has hampered Petroceltic’s offshore progress in Italy) next year and will drill another six or seven wells in Algeria before the end of 2011.

The company is also hopeful of bringing on board another developmental/operational partner at its headline Isarene field in Algeria before the end of this year.

Petroceltic recently sold an 18.4% stake in the Isarene licence (which is set to become commercial by 2016) to Italian utility giant Enel for €123m. That deal is likely to be concluded in August, with first payment likely a month later.

“The Enel deal will — for the first time — give us sufficient funds to use on expanding our portfolio and not just on funding existing developmental work,” Mr O’Cathain said yesterday. He added that the company was targeting at least one new project addition by the end of 2011 and was actively looking at new geographical markets, including a possible return to Tunisia and a potential move further afield in Africa.

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