Gulfsands to focus on plans outside Syria

Marion Dakers
SHARES in Gulfsands Petroleum fell almost five per cent yesterday as the firm said it was looking away from war-torn Syria to expand its business.

The Aim-listed company, whose shares have fallen from a peak of 400p to just 146.5p since the start of last year’s revolutions across northern Africa, stressed that it will hold onto its Syrian assets as it hunts for deals elsewhere.

Its aims for 2012 are to “consolidate our position in Tunisia and build a viable non-Syrian leg to the business within the capacity of the group’s financial resources”, chief executive Richard Malcolm said yesterday.

The group reported annual profit after tax of $55.1m, up from $44.7m a year ago, while cash from operating activities rose 34 per cent to $94.3m.

However, its production levels fell 17 per cent to 8,542 barrels per day as the horrific crackdown on civilians in Syria wrought havoc on its operations.

Gulfsands declared force majeure on its production block, and has since December ceased production and exploration activities. The move will have a “significant impact” on its financial statements.

The group said it is trying to find other work for its local employees in Damascus while its operations remain closed, and it will adhere to EU sanctions put in place to pressure President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime as it clings to power through a brutal crackdown on protesters.

Malcolm said the firm hopes to preserve its assets in Syria amid “a bewilderingly complicated and constantly evolving situation”.