InterOil (IOC) Tanks After Signing LNG Deal with Total S.A.

Michael Teague |

Downstream oil and gas firm InterOil Corporation (IOC) saw shares getting annihilated on Friday, after it was announced that French super-major Total S.A. (TOT) would be buying a substantial share of the company’s liquid natural gas operations in Papua New Guinea.

Total Getting Over Half of IOC's Total Elk and Antelope Fields

From the details that are currently available, Total will be grabbing up over 60 percent of InterOil’s Elk and Antelope gas fields, and will retain the option to invest in more exploration in the future.

The small refiner and marketer has been searching for some time for a larger company to assist in its natgas projects in Papua New Guinea, and has held talks with ExxonMobil (XOM) to this end.

IOC Can't Find Partner for Elk-Antelope Fields

The Elk-Antelope fields are known as one of the largest discoveries in Asia in recent decades, but InterOil has spent a number of years looking for a partner, with little luck. The deal announced Friday is expected to be concluded in early 2014, and could, over the next two years, lead to the development of more fields, and perhaps even the construction of a liquefaction plant in the country.

According to InterOil, Total will pay anywhere between $1.5 billion to $3.6 billion, depending on the size of the reserves. IOC’s estimates put the size between 5.4 trillion and 9 trillion cubic feet of gas. This could lead to contingent payments of between $675 million and $2.78 billion, but Total has been a bit tighter on its own estimates of the reserves, and has said that it expects to pay something more in the range of $590 million.

Stock Price for Total Inches Up

The price movement for Total showed that US investors at least were not terribly impressed at the prospect, with shares up 0.86 percent to $59. InterOil’s shares were another story entirely, down nearly 40 percent at one point, to a low of $51, just $0.05 more than its 52-week low. It’s a drastic move for a stock that, up until today, had added almost 60 percent in 2013. Shares were trading on 5 times average volume, with a massive 27.5 percent short-float.

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