Premier Declares First Dividend Since 1997 on Output Gains

Premier Oil Plc, a London-based energy explorer operating from the U.K. to Southeast Asia, declared a dividend for the first time since 1997 after bolstering profit for a fifth year.

The company is recommending an initial dividend of 5 pence a share for 2012, which it said reflects confidence in future cash flows. Net income rose 47 percent last year to $252 million and cash flow gained 66 percent to $808 million, Premier said in a statement today.

The payout “reflects the strength of the business,” Chief Financial Officer Tony Durrant said in a telephone interview. “It’s capable of both significantly growing and returning some of the underlying cash.”

Premier is expanding production and reserves after adding assets in the Falkland Islands, Iraq and Kenya. It’s planning 15 exploration and appraisal wells this year and said earlier this month that production from its Huntington oilfield in the North Sea will exceed forecasts by at least 20 percent.

Premier gained 2.1 percent to 396 pence by the close of London trading. The stock has risen 18 percent this year.

The company reiterated its production forecast of as much as 70,000 barrels of oil a day this year. Its medium-term target is 100,000 barrels a day, once the Catcher field in the U.K. starts producing in about three years. Output gained 43 percent to 57,700 barrels a day last year.

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