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Harvest Natural Resources, Inc (NYSE:HNR)

Q4 2013 Earnings Conference Call

March 17, 2014 11:00 AM ET

Executives

Keith L. Head – Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary

James A. Edmiston – President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director

Stephen C. Haynes – Chief Financial Officer, Vice President Finance & Treasurer

Analyst

Jason Wangler – Wunderlich Securities

Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

Geoffrey Scott – Scott Asset Management

Operator

Welcome to the Harvest Natural Resources earnings conference call for the 2013 fourth quarter and year end results. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I will now turn the call over to Vice President and General Counsel for Harvest Natural Resources, Mr. Keith L. Head.

Keith L. Head

Welcome to Harvest Natural Resources 2013 fourth quarter and yearend results conference call. This morning our press release was broadcast to the company’s fax and email list. If you would like to be on one of those lists or you did not receive yours due to a technical difficulty, please call our office at 281-899-5700. In a few hours a replay of today’s call will be available in the investor relation’s portion of our website at www.HarvestNR.com. Additionally, a telephonic replay will be available this afternoon by dialing 719-457-0820 passcode 6761569.

This conference call will contain various forward-looking statements and information including managements’ expectations regarding financial, operating, and other results. These statements are based on managements’ beliefs as well as assumptions made by and information currently available to management. Although the company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, we can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to have been correct. Actual results may differ materially from the company’s expectations due to changes in operating performance, project or drilling schedules, oil and gas prices, as well as other technical, political, and economic factors.

Additional detailed information concerning a number of factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from today’s information is readily available in the company’s SEC filings under the heading risk factors and disclosure regarding our reserves. Investors are urged to consider closely the disclosure in our Form 10K which is available from the SEC or on our website. In addition, we will discuss potential transactions involving company assets. We can give no assurances that those transactions will be completed.

At this time I would like to turn the call over to James Edmiston, Harvest Natural Resources’ President and Chief Executive Officer.

James A. Edmiston

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to review the earnings release. I’m going to go through an operations and business summary very briefly, and then Steve will walk you through the financials for the fourth quarter and the year. Given the pending Venezuela transactions, I will be brief with my comments this morning, but as always, I’ll answer your questions at the conclusion.

Starting with Petrodelta, Petrodelta delivered about 3.9 million barrels of oil or 41,966 barrels of oil a day in the fourth quarter of 2013. That’s 15% above the same quarter the prior year. For the year, Petrodelta delivered 14.5 million barrels versus 13.2 million barrels for the prior year, an increase of 10% year-on-year. Current production is running about 43,000 barrels of oil a day.

CapEx for the year was up at $270 million versus $184 million in 2012. In spite of that increase, which includes advance costs for the 2014 drilling program, Petrodelta drilled and completed only 13 wells in 2013 versus 12 the prior year. The CapEx for 2013 was split with about $140 million being spent for drilling and $130 million being spent for infrastructure and pipelines as we build out our productive capacity. Approximately $40 million of the drilling CapEx is actually carry over for the 2014 program, which includes pad construction for larger mega pads and base drilling. With that, 2013 well costs averaged about $7.5 million, which as you understand, is substantially higher than it was in the past.

Moving on, on our Dussafu block in Gabon, we’ve been very busy on the technical side. We recently completed a new velocity modeling over the discoveries incorporating the Tortue data. Additionally, we’re in the processing stage of our new 3D survey which was shot during fourth quarter over the existing discoveries as well as our outboard area. Further, we’ve spent substantial effort updating our execution plans and cost estimates in preparation to move forward towards the declaration of commerciality, the first step in project sanction. Nothing we’ve seen so far diminishes our enthusiasm for the block.

As we discussed prior, we identified potential for larger Dentale structures outboard of our our existing discoveries mapped off the existing 2D seismic with a mean prospective resource of about 650 million barrels in six structures. This emerging play in the deep water has captured the attention of some of the biggest names in the business as evidenced by the recent Gabonese deep water bid round. The Ruche and Tortue well results demonstrate that the petroleum elements for the Dentale play in the outboard part of our license and with our new 3D survey, we should be able to image these structures to establish trap geometries and significantly derisk that potential. We expect the first products from the 3D processing to be available during the second quarter of 2014.

Finally, with regard to Dussafu, while we progressed the block technically towards sanction of a development of the existing discoveries, the block continues to garner interest from a variety of industry players, and we continue to engage those parties in such discussions that might provide an opportunity to yield significant value to our shareholders.

Moving on, in both our Indonesia and China blocks, we’re continuing to engage other parties with a view to monetize and exit those assets in the east. We’ll share some progress in that regard in the not too distant future.

With that, I’m going to turn it over to Steve so he can discuss the financials, and after Steve I’ll make some closing comments.

Stephen C. Haynes

Our 10K was filed this morning and can be found on our website at www.HarvestNR.com. Harvest posted a fourth quarter net loss of $122.7 million or $3.02 per diluted share compared with a net loss of $23.1 million or $0.59 per diluted share for the 2012 fourth quarter. For the year ended December 31, 2013 Harvest’s net loss was $89.1 million or $2.25 per diluted share compared with a net loss of $12.2 million or $0.33 per diluted share in 2012.

The fourth quarter results include exploration charges of $9.9 million or $0.24 pre-tax per diluted share, a loss on the sale of Harvest-Vinccler Dutch Holdings of $23 million or $0.57 per diluted share which relates to the Pluspetrol transaction, and income tax expense of $75.2 million or $1.85 per diluted share primarily related to recording of any future tax liability related to Venezuela and undistributed earnings from other operations for the prior period income invested in international operations. Adjusted for these non-recurring items, Harvest’s fourth quarter net loss would have been $14.6 million or $0.36 per diluted share.

The 2013 results included exploration charges of $15.2 million or $0.38 pre-tax per diluted share, a loss on Harvest-Vinccler Dutch Holdings of $23 million or $0.58 pre-tax per diluted share which again relates to the Pluspetrol transaction and income tax expense of $73.1 million or $1.85 per diluted share primarily relating to any future tax liability related to Venezuela and undistributed earnings from our operations for income invested in international operations. Adjusted for these non-recurring items, Harvest would have had net income of $22.2 million or $0.56 per diluted share in 2013.

General and administrative costs for the year increased $3.4 million to $29.4 million versus $26 million for 2012. The main contributors were an increase of $2.7 million related to the closing of our London office, an increase of $3.2 million in legal and professional fees. It also included the write-off of a VAT receivable related to our Budong project of $2.8 million and that was offset by a decrease of $5.3 million related to equity based compensation as a result of the decrease in the stock price versus 2012 and lower employee bonuses.

Now, I’ll talk about Petrodelta’s results. Petrodelta reported fourth quarter operating income before taxes and non-operating items of $71.7 million or $22.1 million after Harvest’s equity interest under IFRS. Note, references to Harvest’s net equity interest is based on a 32% net increase through December 15, 2013 and 20.4% net equity interest thereafter due to the closing of the [tranche sale] to Pluspetrol.

Petrodelta reported a fourth quarter net loss of $93.3 million, $22.8 million net to Harvest’s equity percent under IRFS. The major contributors to the fourth quarter loss were $23.4 million loss in exchange rate, an increase in tax expenses of $82 million due to improved estimates of the current year taxes, which were all reflected in the fourth quarter. After adjustments to Petrodelta’s earnings under IFRS primarily to conform with US GAAP, Harvest’s share of Petrodelta’s net loss would have been $5.6 million.

Now for 2013 results. Petrodelta reported operating income before taxes and operating items for the year of $415.5 million or $132.1 million net to Harvest’s equity interest under IFRS. Petrodelta reported net income for the year of $255.8 million or $88.9 million net to Harvest’s equity interest under IFRS. After adjustments to Petrodelta’s IFRS earnings primarily to conform with US GAAP, Harvest’s equity interest in Petrodelta’s earnings were $60.6 million which is a 12% increase over 2012.

Finally, on January 11, 2014 we redeemed the 11% senior notes for $80 million which included principle and accrued and unpaid interest. Now Harvest has no long term debt. This concludes my comments, I’ll turn the call back over to James.

James A. Edmiston

As always, Steven will be available to follow up with you guys on the financials so feel free to give him a call after the conclusion of the call. Obviously, [inaudible] several issues through the fourth quarter and you see the tax expense being taken on a perspective sale and he can explain that to you in more detail.

At the closing of our first tranche of the Venezuelan sale that provided us with the cash to both payoff our debt and provided us with the liquidity we require to continue predevelopment technical work in Gabon. From an activities standpoint, aside from our efforts to move forward with the Venezuelan second tranche close, our Gabon work is our sole operational focus at this point. With regard to the second and final tranche of the Venezuelan sale, we’re encouraged by the recent public statements of both the Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Pluspetrol’s CEO supporting the transaction.

With the release of the 10K today, our draft proxy will be refreshed with these yearend financials for 2013 and that should be filed with the SEC within a few days. Then of course, we would expect a shareholder vote on that second tranche sale would occur in the second quarter. With that, I’ll open it up for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Jason Wangler – Wunderlich Securities.

Jason Wangler – Wunderlich Securities

I’m curious, just on the Columbia stuff, as you guys back out of there, what all has happened there? Is there anything more than just what you said as far as there was a default on the agreement and you guys were going to step away and go elsewhere or is there any other color?

James A. Edmiston

I think the color is in the statement. Obviously, when we did the deal, we made application with the ministry down there to approve the change of ownership and our operatorship as of September. So, we were still waiting on that. You know what our liquidity concerns were in the third quarter, so we weren’t willing to stick ourselves out with that hanging over our head or without having had that approved, and at that point we were in default. So, that’s where we are. We’re certainly open to reopening that conversation with our partners down there, but at this point, it is what it is and those terms are in dispute.

Jason Wangler – Wunderlich Securities

Just one other one, just in Gabon obviously you were moving forward with the operations and things, and you kind of mentioned the fact that you do have some interest from other parties, are you effectively going through this right now with the assumption that you’re going to do this on your own now that you have such a good funding base or are you still looking to potentially, at least, farm down something obviously, with the transaction that didn’t close a while back even monetizing the entire position?

James A. Edmiston

I think the simple answer is both. The reality is until that second tranche is decided one way or another we’ve got to continue to run the business as a going concern. I think the [severed] sale with Vitol at least gave a good indication what the value is especially on the preexisting discoveries. We shot the 3D that not only will upgrade our imaging on the existing discoveries, we don’t expect that 3D to really change our view so much on the reserves on the existing discoveries. We think it will sharpen our replacement of development wells, but it’s a certain key issue on the outboard prospects, and that could stand to enhance the value of the block substantially, so that’s kind of where we are.

We’ve got to continue and we plan to continue moving the block forward because we’re really at a point now that it’s all about technical work, engineering, geosigns, and geophysics to go from A to B and obviously what happens on the Venezuelan side impacts what our longer term plans are, but the other thing that impacts that is what opportunities are available to us through the market. We continue to have discussions on the block with numerous counterparties hearing their ideas, and we’re open to those possibilities as well. So the bottom line is both.

Operator

Your next question comes from Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

Just a little more on Gabon, James I was wondering how many interested parties are there? Have you actually had any bids or where are you in that process?

James A. Edmiston

I mean, if you go back to the data room, there were as many as 20, so I’m going to just characterize conversations now as more than one less than 10. That’s a nice broad range. We obviously haven’t received or haven’t reached agreement with a counterparty that we think is suitable for us as the prior Vitol sale, but I think that it’s more of an issue that the existing discovery base is pretty plain to see. We have commissioned a more recent study by [Gaffney Cline] to take a look at all of our technical work, and we expect to get that imminently and I can tell you we expect it is going to confirm our view of those preexisting discoveries and what volumes they contain.

I think the second piece of that though is people are trying to understand that outboard piece better. It’s clear that that emerging play could be far more valuable. It’s certainly larger than the inboard, and you’re at a stage now where you only have those structures mapped on 2D seismic. We’ve shot the 3D, the imaging on the 3D of those structures is pretty imminent. So, there may be a period here of pause in terms of reaching the final agreement which is not such a bad thing. I think that is where we are, but there’s a continued interest. There’s certainly no lack of interest. I can tell you over the last month I don’t think a week has gone by that we haven’t had someone else contact us on the block so we will go in parallel moving that block forward technically, and at the same time, entertaining these conversations.

I think moving it forward technically especially, with the processing and the [Gaffney Cline] work, etc., I think that enhances our ability in that marketing effort as well.

Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

You had referred to bids on a nearby block, could you explain a little more about that and is there any kind of geological repetition between the blocks?

James A. Edmiston

I think the nearby block what we saw is – I think you’re talking about the Gabon lease sale that they had were -- there were numerous blocks taken in the deep water. It was primarily focused on the deep water and just to step back a minute you may recall that Total, Marathon, and Cobalt drilled a well, the Diamond well last year, and it was the wells basically targeting the same Dentale sands. That is the play in the outboard. It’s pre-salt Dentale play and that’s what we saw in our Tortue well, the bulk of the reserves is associated with our Tortue well so it’s the same play.

After that time, you saw the bid round and immediately adjacent to our block or just outboard to our block, I believe that was awarded to Marathon, if I’m not mistaken. It had competition and basically all the blocks surrounding our Dussafu block outboard were contested fairly heavily, and you’ve seen some big names. I mean, they’re the players you would expect to see in West Africa deep water. You’ve got Cobalt there, Exxon participated, Total, and on, and on.

We feel good about what happened in Tortue. Our outboard section of the block isn’t terribly huge but we’re pretty far ahead of the pack in terms of having already having mapped structures. The 3D is really going to tell us what those structures look like geometrically, whether they close in the inboard direction and certainly, I think it will be low risk relatively to any of the other blocks because we’re so close to a proven hydrocarbon system that it’s proven to be oil in the Tortue well.

Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

I didn’t quite catch what you would be saying, what would be low risk?

James A. Edmiston

I think the outboard, our outboard with the 3D, if we see the geometries we expect and see closure on those structures, given that it’s so close to Tortue, given that we can map under 3D the deposition and we’ve already logged and received samples of the fluid confirming they’re oil, I would say certainly they would be lower risk than what the other deeper water players are looking at just in terms of petroleum system there. It’s set that it’s oil and we’ll have 3D over it. So, I’m not saying anything is low risk, what I’m saying is it will certainly be lower risk than the deep water wells that are being discussed and proposed by the new players. Again, these are substantially bigger structures than the ones we’ve already drilled.

Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

I’m sorry, you were saying you had shows of fluids that were hydrocarbons, what were these shows? I didn’t realize you had some actually.

James A. Edmiston

That was in Tortue. We reported the results from the Tortue well. In the Dentale we did retrieve fluid samples, etc., from that for the six sands in the Dentale. So yes, we’ve confirmed that is oil as well as in the Gamba. Let me shorten that, I think one of the risks for the deep water players out there is studies risk. You’ll recall the Diaman well drilled by Total, Marathon, Cobalt, reportedly was gas and gas condensate. Fair enough, we think the risk of gas or gas condensate is much lower for our outboard sector just given the relative closeness to our Tortue and Gamba previous discoveries. We think it’s more likely to be oil. Certainly, what our studies show us is it would be oil if those structures fill up.

Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

I didn’t want to put words in your mouth but I sense that you’re feeling a lot more optimistic about Gabon now and actually would like to go to 3D before doing a sale. I don’t think that was the case three to six months ago. Is that correct?

James A. Edmiston

Well no, I think what we said three to six months ago is we believed the 3D would enhance it. I think the simple explanation of it is this, the 3D probably was not going to enhance or detract from value on the existing inboard area one way or the other. Obviously, we’re two for two there working with old 3D and reprocessed it multiple times. What the new 3D would do for us is as we go to development it will aid us in placing those wells and again, these are horizontal directional wells, it will aid us in doing that work.

What the 3D would impact was our understanding in the value of the exploration potential in the outboard. So, if you looked at it from our standpoint, yes we were willing to sell to Vitol as we mentioned at that number on a risk basis but during that time we were moving forward with the 3D. Now, we have the 3D in hand, it’s undergoing processing and I guess the simple point is that 3D is not going to detract from the value of that block. It has the potential to dramatically enhance the value of that block as we start to see images in the outboard. Does that make sense?

Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

It does.

James A. Edmiston

I’m no more enthusiastic today than I was six months ago and I was pretty effusive about it then. I think it’s an excellent block. I think without the 3D at this point you’ve got a value proposition that says, “I’ve got a fairly low risk model inboard that’s been proven by our next door neighbors Valco over many, many years.” It’s the same play, it’s the same stuff. I think Valco’s CEO referred to it that way the other day in their call so that’s a proven play. We’ve got good mapping, we’re 100% in terms of our drilling there so the value of that block on that bit alone is pretty substantial. But then when you put the optional value, at this point that’s what it is, it’s option value on the outboard. I think it’s pretty substantial. Let’s see the 3D when it comes in. We’ll see if those structures close, we’ll be able to better take a look at geometries and by that time you might find me jumping up and down.

Graham Tanaka – Tanaka Capital Management, Inc.

Can you give a little bit more of a timeline on that 3D valuation? My understanding is even if 3D comes in it’s going to be [inaudible] it’s not sort of a step function we say all at once, “Oh my God we have five out of six structures showing [inaudible].”

James A. Edmiston

We’ve got the data in hand, we’re going through the processing. I think you’re right we’ll get the time data, pre-stacked time in Q2. We will be able to selectively go to depth especially, on the overlap section. Some of that 3D, or a good part of that 3D overlaps our existing discoveries and our old 3Ds which means we’ve already got the velocity models developed for those areas. So yes, we should have some acceleration getting into a depth migration over the existing discoveries. I think our cycle time overall will be shorter than it would be if it was just a rank 3D shoot over an area. We have the ability to accelerate some of our efforts that are aimed at reducing risks, specifically looking at closures and that part of it.

At least by the end of the second quarter we’ll be in a position to feel a lot better about it. I think to get the final products, and I’m talking about totally depth migrated products for the entire shoot, we’re probably talking mid to late third quarter.

Operator

Your next question comes from Geoffrey Scott – Scott Asset Management.

Geoffrey Scott – Scott Asset Management

Regarding the second tranche sale in Venezuela, do you have a flow application in with the government right now which would be approved for the sale or is your application still subject to the government’s discussions with Pluspetrol?

James A. Edmiston

They’ve obviously been notified of it. But yes, the second part of your question is correct, it’s subject to the government’s approval and as we spoke earlier in the process, as best we can tell, a lot of that is dependent on the conversation between Pluspetrol and [inaudible]/the Ministry in terms of plans going forward for the asset.

Geoffrey Scott – Scott Asset Management

You did not actually have an application in there right now that could be approved?

James A. Edmiston

We have notified them officially. Could they choose to approve it tomorrow? Absolutely, they could choose to approve it tomorrow. Do I think that’s going to happen? No. Our understanding of the process has and continues to be that Pluspetrol and the government will move forward looking at the business plan once they reach agreement on those issues and then it will move forward regardless of what’s going on in the parallel.

Geoffrey Scott – Scott Asset Management

In the last, maybe even couple of months, the Venezuelan government has announced development initiatives with other significant oil companies. Are they taking it in any sort of order from largest to smallest, or easiest to hardest, or anything that you can discern? And, are you encouraged by recent announcements that they’re making progress or discouraged that it’s taking so long?

James A. Edmiston

I think what you’re referring to is some announcements of really financing transactions whereby third-party partners are financing some of the joint venture activities. I’m not entirely aware of any new, in terms of new assets. It’s really development work on existing assets within existing joint ventures that the government has and they’ve been able to negotiate various financing opportunities with some of those counterparties. How that affects us, consideration for this deal, I think it’s going to come up in the context of the government sees Pluspetrol is in probably a much better position than Harvest to provide disproportionate financing to this joint venture with Petrodelta. Other than that I think at the end of the day those two sides will look at the situation and if they can see a path forward that works for both that’s what will drive it.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from [Badula Murde – CPB Capital].

Unidentified Analyst

I’m wondering if there is any way for you to kind of characterize the potential value enhancement in Gabon that you’re looking for, that if the 3D seismic confirms or goes a reasonable way to confirming what you think is there and what you’re trying to achieve, can you kind of give us a sense as to what you think the potential uplift may be versus what you had previously contracted for with Vitol? We obviously realize there’s no guarantees but I’m just wondering if you can kind of give a sense of what it is you think might be there?

James A. Edmiston

I think we’ve said that publically. We’ve actually pointed to it in some of the presentations. There are four or five structures that we mapped off 2D in the outboard I think with a means risk number somewhere in the order of 650 million barrels which obviously, from a size standpoint, is dramatically larger than what we have. From a value standpoint, cost per barrel would be a little bit higher than what we would be inboard, we’re in a little bit deeper water but we’re not in what I would call deep deep water. Most of it is 200 meters or less.

How would I compare it to the inboard? If the 3D shows that those structures close and if we were to be successful in that outboard strip, I would say that those would be far more profitable even than what you have inboard so you could easily talk about double or triple the value of the block. But again, it takes more than 3D to establish that. It takes drilling wells, it takes penetrating with a drill bit, but certainly 3D across those prospects that clearly shows in the images closed structures especially, given the proximity to our existing discoveries that penetrated those same sands and saw them oil full, I don’t think there’s any doubt that that will enhance the value of the block and potentially significantly.

Unidentified Analyst

If you wanted to confirm this on your own through the drill bit how long would it take you to basically be able to either procure a rig or relocate a rig and be able to drill a well? And, what would potentially be the expense of that given that if you chose to go down that route given the cash balances we anticipate you’ll have that shouldn’t be a problem, but if you can kind of layout what kind of potential if you were to do this yourself, what type of expense would be involved and what type of time line?

James A. Edmiston

Don’t hold me to the numbers because I don’t have them in front of me but probably, we could get something like that drilled this year. You prefer not to drill one of the outboard prospects until you’ve got fully depth migrated 3D across and so that pushes it out to the end of the year in any rate. As far as being able to contract a rig, the rig market there is fairly liquid. This wouldn’t require a large later generation deep water rig, Gen 2 semi subs or whatever might work. In terms of cost for that type of well, in raw terms if you’re talking about drilling, side tracking, and testing you’re probably talking on the order of $50 million or better.

So, when you say given our liquidity, I’m assuming you’re talking given our liquidity if the second tranche closes. Obviously, that wouldn’t be an issue but whether or not we get to that point again, we’ll be looking at the 3D, we’re continuing to engage these other people, and most assuredly if we see something in the 3D that looks particular exciting the counterparties and the people we’re discussing this with will see the same thing as well. We’ll continue to move the technical work forward. Yes, we are studying the cost of the wells, doing well planning on that type of endeavor but it’s a long way from where we are today given what’s going on and the uncertainty around everything to start procuring and any of that kind of stuff.

Operator

That does conclude today’s question and answer session. Mr. Edmiston at this time I would like to turn the conference back over to you for any additional or closing remarks.

James A. Edmiston

Thank you folks. Again, I apologize for being brief but given where we are, given we expect to have the proxy out in fairly short order towards the shareholder vote on the second tranche I’ve been brief for a purpose. Feel free to call Steve if you want to work through those numbers and charges that were pushed through in Q4. If you have any other questions I’ll be in. Thanks again for joining us.

Operator

Again, that does conclude today’s Harvest Natural Resources’ earnings conference call. We thank you again, for participation.

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