"I am delighted to report that 2006 represented another year of record operating and financial performance for Venture and one in which we continued to see strong performance across all areas of our business. During the year, we delivered a 50% increase in average oil and gas production which, combined with strong commodity prices, resulted in a more than doubling of cashflow and net income. Venture's long term future was underpinned by a total investment of over £300 million during 2006, including acquisitions, the largest of which, CH4 Energy, has given us a fourth production hub.
Venture reached an important milestone with our business generating cashflow significantly in excess of capital expenditure for the first time in its history. As a result, we are able to make inaugural dividend payments totaling 50p per share to reward shareholders for the progress in building Venture to this point, and to reflect the Board's confidence in the future growth of the business in 2007 and beyond.
During the first five months of this year we have made good operational progress and, despite the severe weather conditions offshore in early 2007, our development program is on track. The next six months will see the most active period of development activity in the Company's history with three mobile drilling units operating and field development activity on a total of 15 projects at various stages of maturity.
In particular, on June 4th, we spudded the Channon exploration well in the southern North Sea and results from this well are anticipated in 2 - 3 months. Today we are able to announce first production from the Mimas gas field in southern North Sea, (Venture interest - 15%) with initial gross production rates of approximately 50 MMcfpd. In the central North Sea we have now successfully completed laying the GKA oil export pipeline and offshore work continues to tie both ends of the pipeline in to the export infrastructure. This important infrastructure project remains on schedule and budget to provide a permanent export solution for the Greater Kittiwake Area by the fourth quarter this year. The new pipeline is expected to improve operational uptime substantially, lower overall operating costs and allow GKA field life to be extended.
Total Group production is currently running at approximately 50,000 boepd, and we remain on target to deliver annual average production of 47-51,000 boepd for 2007. Our development program is expected to sustain Venture's growth for the foreseeable future and we remain on course to achieve our strategic goal of doubling the size of our business from 2005 levels to 60-70,000 boepd by 2009."
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