(Adds analyst comment, gas assets writedowns)
MELBOURNE Feb 15 Origin Energy tweaked
up its earnings forecast but warned on Wednesday it will book a
A$1.89 billion ($1.45 billion) charge in its half-year results,
mainly on its stake in the Australia Pacific liquefied natural
gas (APLNG) project.
Origin raised the bottom end of its forecast range for
annual underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation
and amortisation (EBITDA) by 3 percent to A$2.45 billion, but
kept the top end of the forecast at A$2.62 billion.
It is due to report half-year results on Thursday, the first
results under its new chief executive, Frank Calabria, who took
the helm in October.
Origin's shares jumped as much as 2.3 percent to a 17-month
high following the announcement, but shed those gains to trade
flat by midday.
Analysts said the A$1.03 billion impairment charge on its
37.5 percent stake in the APLNG project was not a big surprise
in the wake of writedowns taken by rivals, like Santos Ltd
, on their LNG projects last year.
"The market is probably just seeing it as clearing the decks
for the new CEO," said a Sydney-based analyst who declined to be
named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
APLNG, operated by ConocoPhillips, is one of three
coal seam gas-to-LNG plants which opened over the past two years
in the northeastern state of Queensland amid a sharp slump in
global oil and gas prices.
APLNG had no immediate comment on the impairment. Origin
said it was mostly due to a change in assumptions on U.S. dollar
Origin also flagged it would book a A$578 million charge
against its Browse Basin assets, which it bought for US$600
million in 2014, as it does not see them being developed anytime
soon to supply ConocoPhillips' Darwin LNG plant.
It said it believed another asset in the area, the
Caldita-Barossa fields owned by ConocoPhillips, Santos and
PetroChina, was likely to be chosen to supply Darwin
LNG when its existing gas source, Bayu-Undan, runs out early in
the next decade.
Origin also flagged a A$170 million charge against the
exploration assets which it plans to spin off in an initial
public offering this year, which had been expected to fetch
around A$1 billion.
($1 = 1.3034 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin)