Woodside profit drops in line with forecasts

Woodside Petroleum has posted a 41 per cent drop in full-year net profit to $US1.75 billion, roughly in line with consensus forecasts.

The figure compared to the record bottom line profit of 2012 when income was boosted by the sale of a stake in the Browse LNG project in Western Australia.

Woodside declared a final dividend of $1.03 a share, falling short of UBS’s expectation of $1.05 a share, but well up on the final dividend a year ago of US65¢ a share. The higher divided came after the oil and gas producer increased its payout ratio last year.

Sales for 2013 slid 6.6 per cent to $US5.93 billion, despite a 2.5 per cent increase in output to a record 87 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Chief executive Peter Coleman said the results showed Woodside’s strong operating cash flow and commitment to capital management. Free cash flow in 2013 was $US2.27 billion, taking the total for the past two years to $US5.9 billion.

Net debt has been cut by 20 per cent from the end of 2012 to $US1.54 billion. Gearing has fallen to just nine per cent from 11 per cent, leaving Woodside with $US3.82 billion of funds in cash and undrawn debt to call on if required.

“We have generated $5.9 billion in free cash flow over the past two years,” Mr Coleman said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This has enabled us to pay back debt and reward our shareholders through increased dividends. Importantly, it also provides the financial base for our next phase of growth.”

Woodside last year abandoned plans to build a hugely expensive LNG plant on the Kimberley coast and is reworking the venture instead as a floating project, targeting a final investment decision in the second half of 2015.

It is pursuing an investment in the large Leviathan gas field offshore Israel and a potential LNG export project in western Canada, and has entered exploration ventures in Myanmar, Ireland and New Zealand as it seeks early-stage opportunities that have the potential to lead to major developments.

“Growth opportunities in Ireland, Myanmar, New Zealand, Canada and Israel demonstrate a clear link between our capabilities and future value,” Mr Coleman said.

Woodside restated its 2014 production target of 86 million-93 million boe.