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Cnooc plans share buybacks after record profit on pricey oil

© BloombergSignage for Cnooc Ltd. is displayed on the company's headquarters in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
Signage for Cnooc Ltd. is displayed on the company's headquarters in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Cnooc Ltd plans to implement share buybacks and guarantee dividends through 2024 after its profits soared to a record last year.

China’s biggest offshore driller reported 70.3 billion yuan ($11 billion) in net income in 2021, rebounding from a three-year low in 2020 on rising production and higher prices, it said in its annual report Wednesday. Oil and gas output rose 8.5% to 573 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Cnooc plans to propose at its shareholder meeting annual dividends of at least 40% of profits from 2022 to 2024, with an absolute dividend of at least HK$0.70 per share, according to its annual presentation. It also plans to implement share buybacks this year. It’s 2021 dividend allocation will only be announced after a planned listing in Shanghai.

It’s too early to say whether the company would add any more investments in Russia, Chairman Wang Dongjin said on a conference call Tuesday. Its only investment in the country is a stake in Novatek PJSC’s Arctic LNG 2 project, which is in the early stages of development and progressing normally, he said.

Global oil prices averaged $71 a barrel last year, up from $43 in 2020, as the world’s economy recovered from the pandemic. Gains have accelerated this year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised fears about supply shortages.

The state-owned company is targeting capital expenditures of 90 billion to 100 billion yuan this year, up from 88 billion in 2021, as China seeks to increase oil and gas output to reduce reliance on imported fuel. Cnooc’s Bohai Bay production hub last year became the country’s largest, and still has room to grow.

The firm expects to increase output about 5.6% this year after boosting reserves to 5.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent in 2021, the highest in company history.

Cnooc is also trying to carve out a role in the country’s growing clean energy sector, seeking to use its engineering prowess to become a major player in offshore wind power projects.

The company has planned a 35 billion yuan IPO on the Shanghai Stock Exchange that could also bolster upstream drilling and funding for its new renewable segment. The China Securities Regulatory Commission gave written approval for the listing Wednesday, and Cnooc will conduct preliminary price consultations April 6 and 7.

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