Cairn Energy eyes Lebanon exploration

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British oil and gas explorer Cairn Energy said Tuesday it was seeking new exploration opportunities in Lebanon and possibly elsewhere in the Middle East after the company announced a return to profit.

The Edinburgh-based company, in the process of selling most of its Indian unit to miner Vedanta Resources, said it was heading a consortium seeking to take part in an expected round of bidding for exploration licences in Lebanon.

The announcement came as Cairn, currently engaged in new exploration projects in Greenland, unveiled a return to profit for the first half of 2011 as the company quadrupled revenues thanks to higher oil prices and increased production.

Cairn said profit after tax stood at $371.5 million (258 million euros) in the six months to June compared with a net loss of $12.6 million in the first half of 2010. Group revenue jumped to $1.3 billion from $333 million.

The company added that it was looking forward to completing its Cairn India sale to London-listed Vedanta.

"The transaction provides the group with financial and operational flexibility, enables Cairn to return a substantial proportion of the proceeds to its shareholders, while also continuing an active exploration and appraisal programme in Greenland," Cairn chief executive Simon Thomson said in a statement.

Vedanta announced a year ago that it would buy nearly 60 percent of Cairn India for $9.6 billion.

However it had to wait until earlier this month to receive formal conditional approval for the takeover from the Indian government.

The approval came with a key rider that Cairn India and India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) share the burden of royalty payments on crude production from their Rajasthan fields.

On Tuesday, Cairn said it "continues to review opportunities that may fit with its aim of offering shareholders transformational exploration growth potential within a balanced portfolio.

"One such frontier exploration opportunity is offered by the potential of the offshore Levant Basin of the Eastern Mediterranean, where, in the coming year several countries in the region are all expected to hold competitive exploration bid rounds.

"Cairn has formed and operates a three company consortium which is seeking to participate in the anticipated Lebanon licencing round and possibly some other rounds elsewhere in the region, subject to final technical evaluation and commercially suitable terms," the statement added.

© 2011 AFP

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