* Geologists overestimated potential of growth asset (Adds vice president speaking in London, background on south Khylchuyu)
By Dmitry Zhdannikov
LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - Russia’s Lukoil wrote down $1 billion in value on an Arctic field once seen as a key source of the company’s output growth and a counterweight to declines in its old West Siberian production base, causing its 2011 profit to miss forecasts.
“It was a joint mistake by our and U.S. geologists, which have since the very beginning wrongly estimated the amount of hydrocarbons in the South Khylchuyu oilfield,” said Lukoil’s vice-president and major shareholder Lenid Fedun.
“We think it is a one-off ... We believe this mistake will not be repeated,” said Fedun when asked if revisions were possible on other fields.
Lukoil developed the fields together with U.S. major ConocoPhillips hoping it could become one of the its main sources of production growth this decade.
But reserves revisions and lower production have contributed to a decline in the overall output at Lukoil, which risks ceding its rank as Russia’s No. 2 oil company to TNK-BP as the Russian-British oil company targets modest growth.
Last year, Lukoil saw its production declining for the first time over the past decade and Fedun said he now expected flat output in 2012 with the growth resuming in 2013.
On the financial side, Lukoil reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) up by 16 percent in 2011 to $18.6 billion, lower than the $19.64 billion seen in a Reuters poll.
Net income also rose 15 percent to $10.4 billion on the back of high oil prices, but came in below $11.77 billion in the poll.
The company plans to hold an investor day on March 14 in London and Fedun said it would focus on production growth beyond 2012 and dividends.
“During the upcoming investor day on March 14 the company’s president (Vagit Alekperov) will announce new policies toward the shareholders with the focus on shareholder value. I think you will already feel it this year,” said Fedun, referring to Lukoil’s dividend policies, already one of the most generous among Russian companies.
Lukoil said South Khylchuyu reserves were revised down more than three-fold to 140 million barrels in 2011 and as a result oil production at the deposit would decline much more quickly than expected in the years to come.
The revision is not huge compared to Lukoil’s total reserves of over 17 billion barrels of oil equivalent - one of the world’s largest among publicly listed oil firms. But it is important given that the company has failed to replace its production with new reserves during some years.
On the positive side, Fedun said the company has stabilised production at its mature fields in West Siberia, where it extracts the bulk of its output.
“Those schemes which were invented for the development of unconventional reserves in the United States have turned out to be very efficient in our country,” he said.
He said Russia would be able to boost reserves and increase production even if it used those technologies for conventional oil and gas fields.
Lukoil alone could add up to 10 billion barrels of reserves, which would be easy to extract as they are part of already existing and producing fields, he said, but rejected the idea that Russia could make a push into domestic shale resources.
“What’s the point if we still have such large conventional reserves?”
He also said that by April Lukoil would chose a bank to help it list its stock on an Asian bourse, Shanghai or Hong Kong. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Melissa Akin and Douglas Busvine)