Full year earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) improved by 23% to $574 million compared with $466 million in 2003.
Net profit rose by 16% to $380 million from $327 million on Group sales revenue that rose 2.5% to a record $1,501 million.
Directors have increased the final dividend on ordinary shares from 15 cents to a fully franked 18 cents per share, taking the total 2004 dividend to a fully franked 33 cents per share, compared with 30 cents per share in each of the four previous years.
Gearing (net debt to total capital) increased only slightly from 22.5% to 24.4%, notwithstanding record 2004 total capital spending of $930 million.
Higher dividend reflects confident outlook – Chairman
Santos Chairman, Mr. Stephen Gerlach, said the Board's decision to increase the final dividend from 15 cents to a fully franked 18 cents per share had been made following the full year profit improvement and a positive 2005 outlook.
"This higher dividend is a strong signal to shareholders of the Board's confidence that Santos will to continue to grow earnings in the future," Mr. Gerlach said. The fully franked 18 cents per share final dividend will be paid on 31 March 2005 to shareholders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on the record date 4 March 2005.
Shareholders will have the opportunity to reinvest their dividends through the recently reintroduced Dividend Reinvestment Plan.
Goals being realized – Managing Director
Santos' Managing Director, Mr. John Ellice-Flint, said 2004 was a year in which more goals were achieved in line with the Company's strategy.
"One of the most notable achievements reflected in our improved 2004 result is the ability and commitment of the entire Santos team to achieve the Company's goals and successfully implement its initiatives, despite the challenges created by the 1 January 2004 Moomba incident," he said.
"Despite that unforeseen incident – and other challenges – they have got on with the job of realizing the targets of our five-year strategy which in 2004 continued to reap further dividends in successfully reshaping and streamlining the Santos operations."
"In particular, we were able to successfully implement a significant continuous improvement and productivity enhancement program, which has reduced the Company workforce by 16%, halved the number of senior executives and is on track to contribute $23 million towards profit in 2005, together with achieving significant capital savings."
Higher prices – lower sales volumes
The Company's record $1,501 million full year sales revenue for 2004 reflected a 21.5% jump in second half sales to $910 million – a record for any half in the Company's history.
The record sales for the year reflected higher average prices across most products and was achieved despite lower production and sales volumes for much of the year, largely related to the Moomba incident.
Other key points relating to the 2004 results included:
Mr. Ellice-Flint said Santos' production was expected to be up by some 15% to around 54 mmboe in 2005 and was forecast to rise by more than 10% in 2006.
He said the production forecasts depended on performance of existing fields and timing and performance of new fields.
Mr. Ellice-Flint said the Company's financial performance was subject to oil prices, exchange rates and interest rates. A US$1 change in the oil price per barrel would lead to a A$16 million change in net profit after tax in 2005. A one US cent movement in the AUD/USD exchange rate would lead to a change in profit after tax of $8 million. A 1% change in interest rates leads to a change in net profit after tax of $9 million.
"The year ahead will see Santos continue to advance the growth strategy across multiple fronts, including a major, potentially company-changing exploration program," said Mr. Ellice-Flint.
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