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Cabot Energy's new team keen to leverage position in Italy

Currently it owns 100% positions in two southern Italian licences, but Aitken says reducing its interest in either or both would allow the group to broaden its reach
Italy is a real strength for Cabot, says Aitken

Cabot Energy PLC’s (LON:CAB) new management has started to look at possible new areas in addition to a review of its assets in Canada and Italy.

Scott Aitken was appointed as chief executive in June and has already met with operations teams in the UK, Italy and Canada.

WATCH: Cabot Energy's Scott Aitken focused on 'cash control and production delivery'

Aitken says the aim is to steadily ramp up production in Canada, though he is equally excited by the potential in Italy.

Here, Cabot has a ‘basin-master’ position in the two licences, offshore Sicily and in the Adriatic, which means it can access data for the whole area and select targets accordingly.

Currently, it owns 100% positions in both licences, but Aitken says reducing its interest in either or both would allow the group to broaden its reach from 2-3 areas of operation at present (Italy, Canada, Australia) to between 4-6.

That would give shareholders the opportunity for ‘multiple high impact events’ rather than just two or three, he says.

Farm-out partners

The group has already started to look for farm-out partners for the Adriatic and Sicily Channel licences, which contain a possible 1bn barrel oil resource, according to Cabot’s own estimates.

Both prospects have environmental impact assessment approval and exploration permits.

Elsewhere in Italy, Cabot is in the process of acquiring the Civitas gas asset from Rockhopper, while further north, around Milan, Shell has a farm-in arrangement for an 80% stake in the Cascina Alberto prospect in the Po Valley.

Shell is committed to a 2D seismic programme and one exploration well.

Aitken says Cabot has a world-class scale exploration position in Italy, while the tax position is also in the top decile of any hydrocarbon producing area.

Major discoveries have been in the Mediterranean recently, which underline Italy as a real strength of the business.

A new business development manager has been appointed to help with the permitting processes in Italy, which have been a problem for the industry in the past.

Dominant position in Canada

In Canada, Aitken has started an operational review that will focus on tighter control over costs, reporting standards and sub-surface planning.

Here, production totalled 761 barrels in the first half of 2018, which was well shy of expectations.

Cabot has the facilities in Canada to handle 10,000 barrels per day, says Aitken and it has a dominant land ownership position in an area where there are a lot of smaller operators.

Aitken says Cabot has good assets in Canada and the aim of the review is to identify high-graded, sub-surface targets ahead of a recommencement of drilling programme in 2019.

There are ‘tens’ of targets on its 58,000 acres, which will ‘keep us busy’ for next few years, says Aitken.

Blue Spark

A number of existing wells are also potential candidates for the Blue Spark well-head technology developed by High Power Petroleum, Cabot’s majority shareholder and where Aitken is also chief executive.

At the end of June, the company had a cash balance of US$6.2mln with only critical operating and capital expenditures planned for the remainder of this calendar year.

Back in April, broker SP Angel looked at Cabot in detail and concluded the business was worth a punchy 22p per share.

The current share price is 2.25p and the market value just about £15mln.

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