Talisman Energy reports loss of $731M

Talisman Energy Inc. is reporting a net loss of $731 million, largely as a result of asset write-downs in various parts of the world including its shale operations in Quebec and its offshore operations in Norway.

Results worse than analysts' estimates

A write-down on shale operations in Quebec contributed to Talisman Energy reporting a net loss of $731 million in its most recent quarter. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Talisman Energy Inc. is reporting a net loss of $731 million, largely as a result of asset write-downs in various parts of the world including its shale operations in Quebec and its offshore operations in Norway.

The Calgary-based international oil and gas producer said it's determined to return to profitability after the loss, which was worse than analyst estimates, and will reduce capital spending in 2013 to the lowest level in several years.

It says there won't be any capital committed to exploring for gas in Quebec's shale formations for the foreseeable future, due to a provincial government ban on the kind of drilling required to extract gas from the rock.

Part of the quarter's loss was reflects Talisman's writedown of its Quebec assets, to the tune of $109 million before taxes or $82 million after taxes.

The biggest individual impairment, however, was $497 million pre-tax ($125 million after-tax) that completed the writedown of the Yme offshore project in Norway. That's on top of $978 million pre-tax ($248 million after-tax) in the first quarter of 2012.

Talisman's total loss for the third quarter ended Sept. 30 was equal to 71 cents per share and compares with a net income of $521 million, or 51 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Analysts had been looking for nine cents per share of net income and seven cents per share on an adjusted basis, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Talisman Energy Inc. shares fell 15 cents to $11.90 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Hal Kvisle, president and CEO, said in a statement that the results reflect a number of issues.

"The net loss of $731 million in the quarter is largely the result of $443 million in after-tax impairment charges, reflecting the impact of the company's planned exit from Peru, ongoing uncertainty with the Yme development in Norway, the prohibitions on shale operations in Quebec, and declining reservoir performance at Rev in Norway," he said.

Gas prices low

Kvisle added that the results were also affected by low natural gas prices in North America and lower production in the North Sea.

He said Talisman will take steps to end the red ink.

"We are working toward a disciplined capital plan for 2013 in the range of $3 billion, smaller and more focused than we've seen in recent years," he said.

"Our objective is to fund our most promising and profitable investment opportunities, focusing on near-term cash generation while keeping our balance sheet in good shape. We will provide more details in January after we complete our annual planning process."

The quarterly results are the first to be announced with Kvisle at the helm of Talisman (TSX:TLM).

The former CEO of pipeline giant TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) cut his retirement short in September to take the top job at the international energy producer.

Kvisle, a Talisman board member, replaced John Manzoni, who "agreed to" step down after five years as Talisman's CEO.

Firm less focused on gas

Shortly after Manzoni became CEO, he signalled a shift toward a more focused company. He highlighted three key strategic areas: North American shale natural gas, offshore production in the North Sea and development in Southeast Asia.

The CEO switch came as Talisman once again changed its strategy — slowing down development of natural gas in the face of low commodity prices and working to improve operational performance.

Shareholders were frustrated with Talisman's share price performance, but there was no particular push from investors to change leaders, Kvisle told The Canadian Press shortly after his appointment.

Nor was the shake-up a signal that the "for sale" sign is up at Talisman, he added.

Fellow oil and gas producer Nexen Inc. saw its CEO, Marvin Romanow, leave in January and shortly thereafter began negotiating a deal to be sold to China National Offshore Oil Co. In July, the two announced a $15.1-billion acquisition, which the federal government is expected to decide upon mid-November.

Also in September, Talisman announced plans to wind down its operations in Peru as it wasn't able to build a big enough position there. The third-quarter loss included a $172 million impairment expense related to that decision.

The company's Peruvian subsidiary will stop exploration in the Maranon Basin and plans to exit the country once it completes ongoing commercial transactions.

Talisman drilled a successful well in the area in 2009, but a second one drilled this spring came up dry. A process to sell the Peruvian assets began shortly after that, but no bidder came forward with an adequate offer.