UPDATE 1-High oil prices, busy drilling schedule to help E&P cos

Mon May 14, 2012 9:53am BST

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* J.P. Morgan Cazenove adds Afren to European Analyst Focus List

* J.P. Morgan raises price targets on Ophir, Tullow, Enquest, Cairn

* Deutsche Bank starts Cairn, Lundin Petroleum, Africa Oil with "buy"

* Deutsche Bank names Afren, Premier Oil as top sector picks

May 14 (Reuters) - High oil prices and a busy drilling calendar should help European oil explorers and producers, like Afren Plc, at least two brokerages said as they raised price targets on several stocks from the sector and started some with a positive rating.

Oil is expected to rally through the year on Iranian tensions and as top producers pump at near-full capacity, a Reuters poll last month showed.

"Sentiment towards E&Ps had been trending positive in 2012, fuelled by higher oil prices, M&A and exploration success in East Africa," Deutsche Bank analyst Phil Corbett said in a note to clients.

"... A well stocked calendar of funded, high tariff exploration wells should hopefully maintain interest in the sector and mitigate the downside," Corbett said.

J.P. Morgan Cazenove analyst Jessica Saadat raised her forecast for oil prices as she expects greater geopolitical risks to keep prices high.

"Once the oil price finds a level and the market de-risking ends, we would look to top up in certain names that offer near term drilling result catalysts, look under-valued after the sell-off and could be consolidation targets," Saadat said.

Saadat raised her price targets on Ophir Energy Plc , Tullow Oil Plc, EnQuest Plc and Cairn Energy Plc.

Both analysts picked London-listed explorer Afren as among their preferred stocks.

The company, whose main producing assets are in Nigeria, expanded its reach into the Middle East last year when it bought stakes in two Kurdistan operations for $588 million. .

It expects its Barda Rash field in Kurdistan in Iraq to produce 10,000 to 15,000 barrels per day by the end of the year.

"For Afren, a significant re-rating of its Kurdistan assets seems likely once the export stalemate is resolved, while seeming ambivalence to its East Africa portfolio contradicts positive news flow from the region," Deutsche Bank's Corbett said.

The brokerage also started Cairn, Lundin Petroleum AB and Africa Oil Corp with "buy" ratings.

For related ratings and price target changes, click on and. (Reporting by Abhishek Takle in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)

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