Dragon Oil to Pay Debut Dividend After Cash Rises 17%

Dragon Oil Plc, the London-listed energy explorer focused on Turkmenistan, will pay a debut dividend after its cash balance rose 17 percent last year.

The company’s board agreed to pay a full-year dividend of 14 cents a share, Dragon said today in a statement. Its cash balance rose to $1.3 billion. Net income increased 49 percent to $386.1 million in 2010.

“We will continue to maintain the current level of dividends,” Chief Executive Officer Abdul-Jaleel al-Khalifa said in a phone interview. “But we want to maintain flexibility” depending on acquisitions and cash flow.

Dragon, which plans to increase oil output by 10 percent to 15 percent a year through 2013, may acquire some assets or companies this year to expand its operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, North and West Africa, al-Khalifa said today. The company plans to invest as much at $700 million in oil infrastructure through 2013, including $250 million this year, it said today.

The Middle East and North African unrest hasn’t “impacted” the company plans, al Khalifa said. “Our area of interest includes the countries that are stable and perspective.”

Dragon rose 3.3 percent to 577 pence in London. The shares added about 25 percent in the last year.

Production Rises

Average production climbed 5.5 percent to 47,211 barrels of oil a day last year, with daily output reaching 57,013 barrels at the end of 2010, the company said in a January statement. The explorer raised oil and condensate reserves to 639 million barrels and booked 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

“Dragon Oil enjoyed a record year in terms of revenues generated and the number of wells drilled,” al Khalifa said in the statement. “We have a strong platform to deliver on the upper end of our production forecast this year.”

It plans to drill at least 11 development wells this year.

The company may exit its Yemen operations, al Khalifa said. “The upside and the potential of these assets isn’t high,” he said.

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