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Maurel’s Canadian Foray Part of ‘Riskier’ Exploration Drive

Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Etablissements Maurel & Prom SA is moving into riskier exploration and unconventional projects in Canada and Myanmar in a bid to boost reserves, according to Chief Executive Officer Jean-Francois Henin.

“These will be high-risk operations to get high rewards,” Henin said in an interview at the company’s new headquarters in central Paris.

Separately, he said the explorer’s Gabon production is “on track” this year after a disappointing 2012.

The shares rose 2 percent to close at 12.55 euros in Paris.

Maurel, which began two centuries ago as a trading company between Bordeaux and former French colonies in West Africa, has struggled to raise output and make new discoveries since selling Congolese fields to Eni SpA in 2007. Henin, who owns 24 percent of the company, has tried to sell or find partners to bolster Maurel’s size, which he said last year wasn’t sufficient to allow it to remain independent.

Riskier exploration will be carried out through related company MPI, which has reached a series of agreements since June and has “globally” the same shareholders as Maurel, he said.

Maurel announced last week the acquisition of a 20 percent stake for $22 million in Deep Well Oil & Gas, which has leases in Alberta oil sands, and interests in a dozen blocks in the Peace River area of the Canadian province.

The deal follows another between Maurel, MPI and Petrolia Inc. to explore and develop unconventional reserves in the Gaspe region of Quebec.

Iraq, Myanmar

Maurel signed an agreement in June to gain a 40 percent stake in an exploration block offshore Myanmar from PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corporation Ltd.

Maurel and MPI could also move into other exploration areas with PetroVietnam as well as Iraq, according to the CEO.

Maurel plans to drill later this year in Colombia, Gabon, Myanmar and Peru.

The explorer, which relies on Gabon for output, failed to reach a production target in that country of 24,500 barrels of oil equivalent a day after an incident at the Omoc-Nord field.

The goal this year is to reach 27,500 barrels a day compared with 22,000 barrels a day at the end of 2012, the company said at a shareholders’ meeting in June. Output averaged 16,000 barrels a day last year.

“We are right on target so far,” Henin said in relation to 2013 output.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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