Austral Exits PNG LNG Venture
Austral Pacific Energy Ltd. has signed an agreement with Horizon Energy for the purchase of Austral's 28.92% interest in Papua New Guinea petroleum retention license (PRL) 4 and 10.7% interest in PRL 5. The offers are subject to the pre-emptive rights in the relevant joint venture agreement, which give the existing joint venture parties a 45 day period in which to take up an option to purchase a proportionate share of Austral's interest on the same terms and conditions as the Horizon agreement.
The Company plans to use the proceeds of sale to accelerate loan repayments under the Company's debt facility with Investec. The amount outstanding under the debt facility is US$18.65m. Under the arrangement, Austral will, using the proceeds of sale, along with other scheduled reductions and the set-off of funds being held in a reserve account, reduce the company debt to US$11 million by May 31, 2008, a reduction of $7.5 million.
Commenting on the early repayment and asset sale, Company CEO Mr. Jewell said, "Now is a good time to reduce the company's debt profile, strengthen the balance sheet, and retain its focus on the growth of production from our core assets including the Cheal field development, Kahili Gas Development and Cardiff appraisal. To facilitate this, Austral has completed a review of its inventory of projects and will monetize non-core assets where the divestment can take advantage of the value cycle of the asset and deliver economic value to the company." Mr. Jewell also said, "Austral has funding and plans in place to drill additional wells in the Cheal field in the second quarter of this year."
Additionally Austral and the holders of $10 million in redeemable preferred shares convertible at $1.30 have agreed to swap those shares for an unsecured $10 million debenture with the same economic terms as the preferred shares. The preferred shares are currently carried within Austral accounts as long-term debt under generally accepted accounting principles.