Columbus Energy Resources (LON:CERP)
Columbus Energy Resources (LON:CERP) has announced full year results for the year ending December 2017. The new team, which took charge in May 2017, has recapitalised the company, which ended the year with a cash position of £4m, and began an ambitious operational overhaul seeking to realise the significant value potential of the underlying assets whilst instilling capital discipline.
Revenues were up 5% YoY, to £4.8m while the loss from operations widened to £4.3m from £4m, largely due to the costs associated with closing the Spanish assets. Due to a lower impact from impairments, the net loss narrowed from £11.9m to £5m YoY.
These results, however, largely reflect the last of the old regime and the turnaround being enacted is yet to show through fully. Operational improvements began to take effect from August and so the full year numbers reflect little of the positive working practices and low cost enhancements which took production from 365bopd in July 2017 to a peak of 562bopd by the end of the year.
Group production averaged 368bopd, down 21% YoY, primarily as a result of the reduced contribution from the Spanish assets which have been shuttered. This was modestly lower than our estimate based on management guidance of 399bopd for the full year and was largely due to the challenges of coarse sand impacting on pumps. CERP has now applied new techniques to alleviate this. Group revenues were, however, up 5% YoY at £4.8m driven by a recovery in oil prices and the increased production contribution from Goudron in the latter part of the year. We highlight that revenues from Trinidad increased 24% YoY to £4.5m while Spanish revenues declined 68% YoY to £0.3m and these have been discontinued for 2018.
Cost of sales were modestly higher, up 8% YoY to £3.6m reflecting CERP’s largely fixed operating cost base, however, as a result of a stronger top line CERP generated a small gross profit of £78k versus a loss of £148k in the prior year. The closure of the Spanish operations did, however, increase SG&A costs by around £700k and following the successful agreements in Q1 2018 in relation to the La Cora concession these can be considered a one off. Excluding Spain, CERP reduced SG&A by 11.5% YoY. However, as a consequence the loss from operations widened YoY to £4.2m from £4m.
Finance charges increased to £824k from a negligible net amount YoY owing to the use of the Lind facility which the new team successfully renegotiated during 2017 raising the conversion price to 4.5p. CERP reduced its outstanding debt through the year from £1.87m to £1.21m despite Lind exercising its right to lend a further US$0.75m during the year. The debtposition at the end of March was approximately £0.69m demonstrating continued further progress in this regard. Indeed, having raised £4.1m in October, CERP has considerably strengthened its balance sheet and is well placed to carry out its operational turnaround at Goudron as well as initial exploration on the South West Peninsula, now due in H1 2019.
Post year end, CERP completed a renegotiation of the license ownership in relation to the SWP which paves the way for the much anticipated exploration programme necessary to unlock the significant value potential we believe exists. In addition, the company announced the potential Icacos acquisition which we believe is attractive for both CERP and Touchstone (TXP CN) since its completion better aligns the interests of the relevant parties with their core strategies and will enable CERP to take advantage of potential synergies between Bonasse and Icacos.
Although the financial data for 2017 shows little of the initial benefits from production and operational enhancements managements’ impact on capital discipline is clearly demonstrated in these results. The improvements in production of around 50% during H2 have resulted from minimal capital spending of just £1.38m. Although this was significantly higher than the prior year (£310k), this lack of investment owed to the company’s constrained financial position and we believe that capital spending of £8m in 2015 and £10m in 2014 are more reflective of the prior management’s approach. We believe that this is the key takeaway from these results and is the most clear indication of the change of direction for the company.
The full year 2017 results represent only a small part of the early impact that the new management team has had, in our view. We believe that the financial benefits of the operational turnaround will be more fully reflected in the coming periods and much of the first 12 months for the new team has been about building a robust platform on which to build; resolving legacy issues at the SWP with regard to the BOLT transaction and in Spain now mean that the company is well placed to fully reflect the financial turnaround at Goudron in 2018 and begin exploration on the SWP.
We reiterate our Buy recommendation and 26p target price.