Ex-BofA Banker Sets Out Soco International’s Growth Plans

Soco International Plc is seeking “corporate-type” growth after focusing on cash flow, according to Chief Financial Officer Anya Weaving, who joined the energy explorer from Bank of America Corp. in April.

“We look at a lot of opportunities and now we’ve been more open-minded also looking at corporate-type opportunities,” she said in a phone interview. “We are in the market looking for things but taking it to the next stage has been a little bit difficult.”

The London-based company today announced a payout of $121 million, or 22 pence a share, representing about 60 percent of free cash flow for 2013. At the same time it’s expanding its largest project off Vietnam and plans to start output from the Te Giac Trang field’s H5 reservoir as soon as September 2015.

Weaving joined the company from Bank of America in April and became the CFO in May. As the bank’s managing director for mergers and acquisitions, she helped Soco dispose of assets in Thailand in 2010 and advised on the $95 million buyout of a partner in the company’s Vietnamese project.

“Our focus on cash flows has paid off,” she said. “Before we were trading at quite a significant discount to net asset value and suddenly everybody is focusing on the cash flows.”

Soco has gained 7.8 percent this year in London after closing down 2 percent at 426 pence today. The FTSE All-Share Oil & Gas Producers Index is up 3.7 percent this year.

Soco is drilling the Lidongo X Marine-101 exploration well on the Marine XI Block off the Republic of Congo in the vicinity of Eni SpA’s discovery. Another is planned next year. “We are trying to test whether their field extends onto our block.”

“Exploration is in the DNA and we want to invest for growth,” she said. “I don’t think there is investor appetite to be putting so much money into very expensive wells without any results.”

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