InterOil's (IOC) CEO Dr. Michael Hession on Q1 2014 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: InterOil Corporation (IOC)

InterOil Corporation (NYSE:IOC)

Q1 2014 Results Earnings Conference Call

May 14, 2014 8:00 AM ET


Wayne Andrews - Investor Relations

Dr. Michael Hession - Chief Executive Officer

Don Spector - Chief Financial Officer


Evan Calio - Morgan Stanley

Pavel Molchanov - Raymond James

Chris McDougall - Westlake Securities


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. And welcome to InterOil’s First Quarter Results Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Instructions will be given at that time. (Operator Instructions)

As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Wayne Andrews. Please go ahead, sir.

Wayne Andrews

Thank you, Toni, and hello, everyone. This is Wayne Andrews with Investor Relations for InterOil Corporation. Before we start, I want to briefly remind everyone that some of the statements made during this conference call constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the U.S. securities laws, including such statements as those regarding expectations of future results, general financial performance, future business prospects and strategies.

These statements are based on management's current expectations and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these statements.

Additional information about factors that could cause our results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements can be found in the company's filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and SEDAR.

The speakers from management on the call today are Dr. Michael Hession, CEO; and Don Spector, CFO. We have a presentation to accompany our comments today. The presentation can be accessed on our website at You can find the link on the homepage.

At this time, I’d like to turn the call over to Dr. Hession. Michael?

Dr. Michael Hession

Thank you, Wayne. Hello. And thank you for joining the call today as we explain our first quarter results. I am Michael Hession, the Chief Executive Officer of InterOil and I’m joined by Don Spector, our Chief Financial Officer.

Firstly, I would like to remind you of our business strategy, so you can see our Q1 results in that context, secondly, Don will explain our financial results in detail and thirdly, I will provide you an update on our currently drilling and exploration portfolio, and finally, at the end of the session, we will be happy to take your questions.

If I can ask you to turn to slide three, where our strategy is laid out in three pillars and you will see a clear snapshot of our progress this quarter. We continue to stabilize the business, we continue to monetize our gas resources and we continue to secure our growth options.

Let me take you to the first pillar, stability of the business. We are tracking well. We now have a first class senior executive team. The seven members of our leadership group have more than 150 years of oil and gas experience, with a dozen or so global oil and gas majors, and that experience is particularly in LNG.

We continue to streamline our offices and increase efficiency. The transition of staff from our Cairns office to Papua New Guinea is on track for completion later this year. We also continue to focus on cost containment and we are improving our IT and HR systems so we are set for our next growth phase.

Our exploration and appraisal program has begun and it is fully funded. And importantly, we are financially sound. We have cash in the bank and our rebalancing program is underway. Don will talk about that in a more detail later.

On the second pillar of our strategy, monetizing our resources, we completed the Total deal and we now have a strong pair of 15 partners in Total and Oil Search. We are getting on the business. Total has appointed a country manager for Papua New Guinea, Philippe Blanchard and he is already emerging himself in his new role, meeting people and visiting the field.

Next, we intend to prove Elk-Antelope resource. As part of this, we are finalized with contracts for the Antelope 4 and 5 wells and we expect to complete both wells in the second half of this year.

After evaluating these well results, the joint venture will decide whether to drill a third appraisal well at Antelope 6. I would remind you that InterOil has carried these appraisal wells.

We are also moving ahead with the planning for the LNG development. Next week it’s intended that the team from InterOil and Oil Search will join Total in Paris for technical discussions on the LNG project.

I am sure you all know that Elk-Antelope is the largest undeveloped gas field in Papua New Guinea. It is relatively close to coast when compared to develop gas fields for the west and it is closer to major infrastructure than any of the gas development in PNG. This geography alone could translates into lower overall cost for any development of Elk-Antelope and higher value for our shareholders.

Let me now turn to PRL 39, which contains Triceratops-3 discovery. The joint venture has agreed the appraisal strategy and the general location for the Triceratops-3 appraisal well and it’s finalizing exact coordinate for the well at this moment. We expect to complete Triceratops-3 in early 2015.

On the third pillar of our strategy, securing growth, most of you will be aware, we have launched a major exploration program. With a grant of four new petroleum prospecting licenses in March, InterOil has secured tenure of our exploration acreage for at least the next six years, with the potential for up to 11 years.

We are currently drilling three wells, Wahoo, Raptor and Bobcat. We are wasting no time and have already commenced the significant seismic acquisition programs now on new licenses.

The seismic crew are working continuously throughout 2014, 2015, and our strategy will be to balance our work program between opportunities near Antelope and exploration target to the southeast and west in a highly perspective frontier areas.

To aid this, we are in final stages of contracting for an extensive high resolution airborne, gravity, 3D geometry survey across the new licenses. With this work program of airborne, gravity, seismic and drilling, we are focused on building and maturing our exploration inventory and our resource base.

With our near 4 million acres we have virtually the entire Eastern Papuan Basin under license and today in this large area we have about 40 leads to choose from in our exploration portfolio. We will look to expand these leads as we continue to explore the Basin in the years ahead.

I will return to our drilling in some detail in a few minutes, so let me finish my introduction here. But before handing to Don, I would just like to say, you should expect more the same from us in the next quarter. There will be more progress on ensuring stability in the business, monetizing our resources and securing new growth opportunities.

With that, now let me hand over to Don to comment on our financial results. Don?

Don Spector

Very good. Thank you, Michael. And welcome to everyone listening to today’s presentation. The first quarter of 2014 saw the achievement of a significant milestone in the history of our company, with the closing of deal with Total and the receipt of the $401 million completion payment.

This has strengthen our balance sheet and together with the carry Total is providing on the payroll of 15 wells has provided the funds we require to undertake the extensive drilling program we have ahead of us. Our existing operations also continue to perform well during the quarter.

If we turn to slide four and take a look at some of the key metrics for the quarter, at high level we achieved sales volumes of 1.9 million barrels. Throughput after refinery of 26,717 barrels a day.

Revenues of $311 million and most importantly, the completion of the deal with Total we are holding $421 million in unrestricted cash at the end of the quarter and with the inclusion of the profit on sales from that deal, our net profit after tax was $319 million.

Turning to slide five, in our Upstream business we booked a profit on the sale of the shares of the company sold to Total of $338 million. It’s worth spending a little bit of time explaining how this gain is calculated. And for those of you who have a copy of the accounts a detailed explanation is set out in note 6.

We have agreed with our auditors that the estimated proceeds to be used for the purpose of this calculation will be the $401 million received from Total at the end of March, plus the estimated resource payment to be received at certification next year. Our volume of 7.1 Tcfe has been used for this purpose. This is volume contained in the gas decline report, which was used to underpin the purchase price paid by Oil Search when they acquired a minority interest in PRL 15 earlier this year.

This leaves us with an estimated discounted value of sales proceeds of $953 million, from which we deduct our past expenditure in PRL 15 of $613 million, resulting in a net profit after tax of $340 million. $338 million of this profit was booked in our Upstream and $3 million was included in our consolidation adjustments. Future proceeds to be received at FID, the first LNG cargo and the timing of the wild card certification event will be booked in our accounts if these amounts are received in the future. So this number could grow quite significantly in the future.

Moving to slide 6, you will find we had another strong quarter with production of 26,717 barrels a day, compared to 27,525 barrels a day in the corresponding quarter in 2013. Revenue was lower than in the first quarter of 2013, but this was more than offset by a reduction in the cost of sales due to the timing of our exports. Our results at the refinery were also impacted by the continued fall in the kina.

On the slide 7, the Downstream operations continued to perform well with the slight increase in revenue compared to the corresponding quarter of 2013. The Downstream returned a net profit after tax of $6 million, which was slightly above the first quarter profit of 2013.

If we move to the balance sheet items now on slide 8, our gearing decreased to 22% by the end of the first quarter as we received the $401 million completion payment from Total. Our quick and current ratios also moved well within our target levels with the receipt of these proceeds.

In relation to liquidity, at the end of the first quarter we had $421 million of unrestricted cash, plus $100 million undrawn within the Credit Suisse led facility. We also had a $197 million available in our working capital facilities to fund our operating business.

With completion of the Total deal now behind us, we had started discussions with Credit Suisse on the $250 million facility. It is our intention to refinance its facility and push it out to the end of 2015. This will take us well beyond the certification payment expected in 2015 and through to the end of the current 8 well program we have highlighted in our presentation today. Just to be totally clear here, with the receipt of the $401 million completion payment, the carry that Total is providing on the PRL 15 wells and the intended refinancing of the $250 million facility we expect to be fully funded throughout the 8 well program we currently have ahead of us.

In closing, my section of the presentation is very pleasing to be able to talk to you about the fact that our balance sheet is now looking very solid. We had completed the Total deal, received a $401 million, commenced our extensive drilling program and achieved solid performance from our operating assets. If we go back to our three horizons, and in particular, our objective to stabilize the business, from a financial perspective we have gone a long way down the track to being able to say we have achieved this.

Now on that note, I will hand you back to Michael.

Dr. Michael Hession

Thank you very much, Don. So if I could ask you to turn to slide 9, I will provide you an overview of our exploration and appraisal program. Firstly, it’s one of the biggest exploration and appraisal programs ever in Papua New Guinea and is fully funded to 2015.

I am sure you heard me say exploration and appraisal. Let’s just break up those terms because they are very different. Exploration is the search for hydrocarbon and is very uncertain. Appraisal is delineation of discovered hydrocarbons and has much lower uncertainty. In our current program, we have both a series of exploration wells and a series of appraisal wells.

A critical element of our strategy is the continuous discovery of resource through exploration drilling followed by the proving up of any discovery through appraisal, two very distinct phases of activity. The first step in exploration is to secure acreage. And as I mentioned earlier, we have a large footprint of about 4 million acres which we hold for six-year term with the option to extend for a third of five years. The next step is to build our inventory, to find those multi-Tcf prospects we need to drill.

Now, of course, we would like every exploration well to come in. But as we push into new and more frontier areas in our licenses, that is statistically improbable. The typical strike rate for a global exploration is about one success for every 10 wells. In the Gulf region, which is underexplored, we have a strong success rate having found gas with three of the seven wells we have drilled.

The overall quality of our portfolio will only be clear in the long run. It does not depend on the result of the next one or two exploration wells. Two weeks ago, I visited our operations in the field and I can tell you it’s an impressive asset in difficult terrain. At present, we have three rigs running and two seismic operations. And we are employing about 1,000 people, most of them Papua New Guinea citizens.

You can turn to Slide 10. On Slide 10, we show various structural trends with potential leads and prospects. I would like to give you some color about the potential depth of our portfolio. The red circle encompasses the potential targets that could be tieback to Antelope, if they ultimately prove successful. For perspectives, the red circle has a radius of 30 kilometers, comparatively more than 365 kilometers our exploration licensees extend from west to east.

So as you can see, there are multiple targets in this one area, an area which represents only 10% of our exploration acreage. You will see that there are effectively three structural trends, each represented by white line on the slide. We have considerable success in the Norway trend with the discoveries of Triceratops, Elk and Antelope.

We intend to test additional prospects on this trend, including Bobcat and Antelope Deep. There are other prospects in other trends that could also tieback to help Antelope. We are for instance, exploring the most (indiscernible) trend with Raptor. And eventually, we’ll move to the central trends where we have Mule Deer and White Tail.

Slide 11 shows the indicative timetable for the eight exploration appraisal wells that we plan to drill in 2014 and ‘15. The exploration wells are in blue and the appraisal wells are in red. The notations besides, Antelope-4, 5 and 6 show where InterOil has a carry from Total.

We also have a carry from Total on our exploration well in PRL-15, a decision on which will be made in the coming months. This timetable is only indicative because drilling will be subject to rig availability and the geological conditions we will encounter while we drill. As you can see, we have a busy and exciting program underway.

If I can ask you to move to Slide 12, please, Slide 12 provides an overview of our exploration program. If you allow me to delve into the geology for a moment, an interesting feature of this region is the Orubadi shale. The Orubadi shale is highly ductile of the lime and sticky, which makes it an excellent seal for hydrocarbon accumulations to drill out the basin. However, those same qualities can also make it a challenge to drill.

We continue drilling operations at all three wells, Wahoo, Raptor and Bobcat. And we are proceeding with the appropriate level of caution as we drill through the Orubadi shale. Progress is good at Wahoo and Raptor. The Bobcat drilling conditions are proving to be difficult and we are now on our second sidetrack in that well. At this stage, we have nothing more to report but we’ll of course disclose results as soon as we have them.

The next three slides will give you an idea of the remote and difficult terrain we are drilling in. We will also give a little bit of background information on Wahoo, Raptor and Bobcat. I don’t intend to go through these in any detail but I’m happy to return to them in the question-and-answer session, if you like.

If I could ask you to go to Slide 16. On Slide 16, we have an overview of Antelope appraisal drilling. The slide shows the photograph of the site preparation for Antelope 4. We expect to spud both of these appraisal wells in the second half of 2014. The joint venture will decide if we need to drill Antelope 6 based on the results of Antelope 4 and 5. Remember InterOil has a carry on these drill cost, Antelope 4 and 5 as well as 6, if it goes ahead.

Moving on to Slide 17. On Slide 17, you can see we have acquired extensive seismic over Triceratops. And we expect to have Triceratops-3 underway by late 2014. In 2013, a total of 107 kilometers of seismic was acquired over Triceratops in PRL 39 and PPL338. With the grant of Petroleum Retention Lease 39, the way is now clear for further appraisal of the Triceratops gas field.

I’ll conclude with Slide 18, which focuses on seismic. Earlier I outlined that we will continue to build our prospect inventory. Central to that build are seismic programs. These programs are progressing well. We have two seismic surveys in progress across PRL 15, PPL475 and PPL476. They will acquire about 130 kilometers of 2D data. This will complement 50 kilometers of 2D data we already have acquired in the three other region surveys.

The Zebra program in the southeast of the map is the first seismic program to commence as part of the work program for our new exploration license term. The data quality, I’m happy to report, is excellent. We now have good coverage over the Antelope field. Another drill targets are emerging. This data will be used of course to further refine our leads and prospects for our future drilling campaigns.

So in summary, as Dan alluded to it's been a pleasing quarter. We have accomplished what we set out to do. Our strategy is on track. We remain focused on adding value particularly through the drill bit, which is something we do well. We have a busy exciting program ahead and the financial capacity to deliver it.

So with that, we’ll be happy to take your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session


(Operator Instructions) And we have a question from the line of Evan Calio from Morgan Stanley. Please go ahead.

Evan Calio - Morgan Stanley

Hey, good morning -- good evening guys. In the drilling program today, you guys lay out the contingent Antelope 6 well. Just -- really discussed the considerations of why you wouldn’t drill that well? And then given the indicative timing that you laid out, I mean has that location already been determined with the partner?

Michael Hession

Evan, that’s a really good question. Antelope 6 will absolutely revolve around what we find in 4 and 5. We need to take a look at what we see and how the reservoir performs, how it picks and numerous other parameters before we decide whether we go to Antelope 6. And to the second part of your question, no it’s not been picked because we need to incorporate the information from 4 and 5.

Evan Calio - Morgan Stanley

Okay. So the timing maybe it’s a little bit longer than to follow because if you are going to wait for the results, I assume it might take some time to prepare that location. The question, looks like the drilling sequence, you laid out is a three-rig program. Any update on the fourth rig and where that might go if added?

Michael Hession

Not yet, Evan. Your point is exactly right. This is an indicative program. It will depend on things like the ongoing rig negotiations. We maybe having the fourth rig owners and that’s a little bit geological conditions that we’ll encounter. Drilling is not an exact science as you are well aware. So I will just say that it is very much indicative.

Evan Calio - Morgan Stanley

Okay. Any discussion on the longer gap between Raptor and Antelope Deep? Is that -- are you waiting on seismic or something else there in that timeframe?

Michael Hession

The existing wells, the existing rigs rather we’d call will be redirected to Antelope 4 and 5. So it will depend on where we go for rig negotiations. That particular rig that we’ve got will not be able to do until update. So we’re actually just working through apportionment of the rigs and we’ll see where we go. There is a possibility of some acceleration but I’m not going to commit to at this stage.

Evan Calio - Morgan Stanley

Maybe last one for me. I mean, can you just talk about the strategy for selecting because it’s a joint process with your partner, Total, in selecting locations, appraisal locations. Given that the appraisal determines the fee that Total pays you and given that you have a wild card call out ultimately. Does that drive a more conservative selection of locations so that you can deliver three successful wells versus moving out and really pressing the flank of the reservoir. Just any comments on how that strategically plays out? That would be appreciative. Thanks.

Michael Hession

Evan, not really. We’re going to apply normal good oilfield practice here. The aim of the game here is very much about sizing the appropriate development. That’s the mantra there, sizing the appropriate development. So we’ll work through the locations and we’ve worked through the locations to address risks, your risks like BLV, reservoir, the normal sort of risks that one encounters when one gets into oil and gas space.

But I mean, I can emphasize there has been no disagreement between us and Total. It’s been quite pleasing actually seeing the geologists and reservoir engineers getting the same room and really converge on two locations that we’re all happy with.


We have a question from the line of Pavel Molchanov from Raymond James. Please go ahead.

Pavel Molchanov - Raymond James

Thanks guys for taking the questions and appreciate all the color on the drilling program. I know you can’t comment on the legal process but can you maybe give us some perspective on how you are thinking about the Oil Search lawsuit and is this something that is affecting any of the operations that the company or your conversations with Total?

Michael Hession

Well, let me answer the second part of your question first. Pavel, we are not in anyway being held up with respect to our operations. And as I’ve taken us through in the presentation tonight, we’ve chosen Antelope 4 and 5. And we’re clearing the well sites and we’ll be expecting to put those in the second half of the year.

We’ve had some very positive meetings, technical meetings, drilling meetings, development meetings between all parties. And I’m pleased to report things are moving on as you would expect in very, very professional joint venture. So let me unequivocally tell you that there is no delay as a result of discussions we’re having with Oil Search.

Don Spector

I don’t want to go into any of the detail on the Oil Search issue. But what I will tell you is I’ve got utmost respect for Oil Search management, for Peter, and for their capabilities in Papua New Guinea. And I fully expect that it will be coming to a conclusion and solving any issues in the appropriate way behind closed doors. And I don’t intend to provide any running commentary on those discussions.

Pavel Molchanov - Raymond James

Okay. Fair enough. And then my follow-up for you Mike is as you noted lot of new, essentially an entirely new management team in the past 12 months including yourself of course, a lot of investors are interested in how you will be compensated and evaluated by the Board, given the strategic kind of shift at the company? And I’m curious if you can give us any color on how you envision the compensation structure for the senior team going forward?

Michael Hession

Well, let me tell you that my remuneration and remuneration of other senior executives will be disclosed at the InterOil AGM in June. And we’re just going through the final preparation of the materials for that AGM. What I will do on this call is give you some idea of how myself and the team were compensated?

Our remuneration includes fixed and variable cash payments. And those payments are based on share value accretion and a number of milestone payments. It’s all directed towards adding value to the shareholders.

So, I think, when you see what we’ve done at the AGM, you will understand exactly, that it is a clear line of sight between value delivered to the shareholders and how we as an executive team get very transparently compensated. So that’s as most is I can tell you at the moment, Pavel, but all will be revealed in detail at the AGM.

Pavel Molchanov - Raymond James

Okay. Fair enough. And just a small procedural question, if I may, on the three wells currently drilling. Are you planning to disclose results on each one separately or will it be kind of a package announcement when all of them are completed?

Dr. Michael Hession

That’s an excellent question, Pavel and I have been paint to talk about the importance of the portfolio approach. We’ve got to look at this in terms of the portfolio and as I said, we’ve put our 11 years, numerous prospects and we worked our way through delivering value in that portfolio. However, we will disclose results as soon as we have them on each well.

Pavel Molchanov - Raymond James

Okay, clear. Very clear. Appreciate it.

Dr. Michael Hession

Thanks, Pavel.


The next question is from the line of Chris McDougall with Westlake Securities. Go ahead, sir.

Chris McDougall - Westlake Securities

Hello, gentlemen. Thanks for the detailed updates. Michael, on the exploration program, building up of Pavel’s question, what should we expect in the way of data for each well? I mean, are you doing your standard wireline logs, are you going to be doing production tests, what will define your certain degrees of success and such before we get there, it would be nice to have an outline?

Dr. Michael Hession

It’s a pleasure to answer detailed oil and gas questions given the background. Wireline logs, of course we will do the wireline suite. And it will be the complete conventional suite that one uses to determine whether we have a discovery or not. We will then make certain decisions in terms of -- okay, what we find. We will make a decision on whether we test the thing depending on what we find and depending what we see from the logs. So, I can tell you unequivocally, we will have a full suite of wireline logs and then we will have discussions about side wall core programs, BSPs and indeed potentially testing. So it’s going to be box standard oil and gas field practice. So does that help, Chris?

Chris McDougall - Westlake Securities

Sure. So, I guess I was trying to get an outline for, will it be a successful well or not? I would assume, if you don’t do a production test, that would maybe a little bit less confidence about the success and if you do a production test. But please correct my initial impression before we get there.

Dr. Michael Hession

Let me jump in there straight away. That’s often not the case. You can get particularly on unequivocal answers from wireline logs. I mean, we’ve got to remember, the conventional decisions will be made around testing and there are scenarios where you get such a good result and such good harpoon for instance, such good properties, such good gas saturations that you don’t need to do a test. So it’s not a black and white answer and we will work through as we do on the day and we will wait for those results.

Chris McDougall - Westlake Securities

Okay. Great. Thanks. And then updating on the particular wells, could you give us kind of the latest depth where you are at Wahoo-1, Raptor-1 and Bobcat, the side track?

Dr. Michael Hession

Chris, I won’t be doing that simply because we’ve said that we will disclose what’s material and we will be disclosing what we’ve got in terms of discoveries or not, on resource side during -- at the appropriate time.

Chris McDougall - Westlake Securities

All right. And then moving on to the appraisal program, so with Antelope 4, is that effectively the same position that was your determined kind of the Total field closing, or is it moved materially?

Dr. Michael Hession

Total, it’s not moved materially and it’s not exactly at the same position but it’s as good as close to it.

Chris McDougall - Westlake Securities

Okay. And then on the exploration program, there is originally some thought of performing part of that out and it would seem that now that we are into the drilling, the next sort of milestone for that would be after seeing the latest results, is that a fair understanding or is there still discussions about forming that out?

Dr. Michael Hession

The way these things go, I mean, one decision to farm-out depends on what one offers one gets. So we haven’t got a determine time when we are going to farm-out or not farm-out. It will totally be a result of any discussions we have with the parties.

Chris McDougall - Westlake Securities

Okay. Well, thank you very much. We look forward to the update on the drilling results.

Dr. Michael Hession

Okay. Thank you very much, Chris.


And at this time, there are no further questions. I would like to turn the call over to Dr. Michael Hession for closing remarks.

Dr. Michael Hession

Well, thank you very much. I will be brief. I would like to thank you for your questions in participation on this call. As I said earlier, this has been a pleasing quarter for InterOil. We’ve accomplished the important task we set out to achieve. Our strategies are on track. We are moving ahead to add value to our operations. The program ahead is impressive and exciting. And we look forward to keeping you updated. Now with that, we’d like to get on with it. Thank you.


That does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive Teleconference service. You may now disconnect.

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