Malaysia's Most Battered Oil And Gas Stock Eyes Foreign Tie-Up

(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s UMW Oil & Gas Corp. is teaming up with foreign partners for the first time to venture outside of Asia and predicts the slowdown that forced the company to idle most of its drilling rigs may be ending.

The Kuala Lumpur-based company, which had a record loss last year as it idled six out of eight drilling rigs, hopes to forge alliances with overseas firms to boost its chances of winning jobs beyond its home base of Southeast Asia, President Rohaizad Darus said in an interview, declining to name the companies. Charter rates have reached a bottom and the industry is showing signs of a slow recovery amid gains in oil, he said. The stock is poised for its best weekly gain in three months. It fell 1.1 percent at 10:33 a.m. local time. “We are already jointly bidding for contracts with our partners, and the alliances would be formalized after we get them,” Rohaizad said by phone. “My main objective is to get the rigs to work. We are seeing some recovery, but it will be slow.”

Crude has surged about 85 percent from a 12-year low in January, boosting the outlook for oil and gas service providers. They were the worst performers on Malaysia’s stock market in the past two years as the rout in oil dried up demand for their services and sparked a price war on charter rates. 

Charter rates for drilling rigs dropped from a peak of $180,000 a day in late 2014 to about $100,000 a day in the third quarter of 2015, and are probably now less than $70,000 in Southeast Asia today, according to CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. in a report last week.

“The price war for charter rates has stopped, and everybody has reached a level that they can’t go lower,” said Rohaizad.

UMW Oil & Gas’s stock has plummeted about 80 percent from its 2014 high, making it the worst performer on the FTSE Bursa Malaysia 100 Index of the nation’s top companies. The stock is trading at 60 percent of its book value, compared with an average of more than twice that since it was listed in 2013. The company posted a loss of 372 million ringgit ($89 million) last year and a 65 million ringgit loss in the first quarter of 2016.

The company is still discussing whether it should be a joint venture or a consortium, Rohaizad said. Venturing beyond Southeast Asia could help it secure higher charter rates and raise the utilization of rigs, he said.

Earlier this week, the company won a charter contract from Petronas Carigali Sdn., the exploration arm of state oil company Petroliam Nasional Bhd.

“The Petronas contract will give us earnings visibility for at least two years. It is significant to our bottom line in this current environment,” Rohaizad said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Choong En Han in Kuala Lumpur at echoong6@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeff Sutherland at jsutherlan13@bloomberg.net Chan Tien Hin, Andrew Janes

Copyright 2016 Bloomberg News.

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