MIDAS SHARE TIPS: Focus on cleaner fossil fuel in Africa


 

MIDAS SHARE TIPS: Fossil fuel firms are besieged by critics but perhaps the loudest opposition is reserved for Africa-focused businesses

Experienced: Afentra's Paul McDade

Experienced: Afentra’s Paul McDade

Fossil fuel firms are besieged by critics but perhaps the loudest opposition is reserved for Africa-focused businesses.

Eco-warriors argue that oil and gas exploration and production is exploitation by another name and that any company worth its salt should stop what it is doing – and fast.

Paul McDade takes a different view. Formerly chief executive of FTSE 100 Tullow Oil, McDade has spent 35 years in the oil and gas industry, including almost two decades in Africa. He understands the continent and the role that energy plays in helping Africans improve their lot. That is why he established Afentra – a short form for ‘African energy transition’.

McDade’s mission is to buy oil and gas assets that are already in production, make them as safe and environmentally efficient as possible and employ local people to their benefit and the company’s.

Afentra shares are 25p and should increase substantially, as McDade puts his strategy into effect.

Early signs are encouraging. Afentra was formed through a quasi-takeover of Sterling Energy, a small energy firm in need of a change of direction. In the spring of 2021, McDade was parachuted in to deliver that change.

Within months, he and his team had found a deal – 20 per cent of a world-leading oil field just off the coast of Angola.

The state-owned energy group, Sonangol, wanted to reduce its 50 per cent stake in the field, known as Block 3/05 – Afentra was keen to buy. Like almost everything in Africa, the transaction has taken longer than expected. Finally signed off last April, the deal has been delayed ever since.

In the meantime, McDade acquired another 4 per cent of the Block from INA, a state-backed Croatian energy firm. Now, finally, the end is in sight. The INA sale should complete within days, Sonangol is expected to follow suit in June and Afentra will then start to make money. Block 3/05 produces almost 20,000 barrels of oil a day so Afentra’s position will amount to around 5,000 barrels a day.

Under the terms of the Sonangol and INA deals, however, Afentra is entitled to oil accrued since a particular date in their negotiations – counter-intuitively, September 2021 for INA and April 2022 for Sonangol.

The agreements mean that McDade will end up paying out considerably less in upfront cash than he would have done had the deals completed straightaway. And he has had ample time to plan how to boost production from the Block.

Up to 30,000 barrels a day is in Afentra’s sights, through modern extraction techniques and more proactive management. There are also clear opportunities to make the Block environmentally cleaner, including a reduction in gas flaring, which sends greenhouse gases shooting into the atmosphere.

McDade and his crew are looking for other transactions too, several are in the pipeline and the hope is to achieve daily production running into tens of thousands of barrels in years to come. Crucially though, Afentra is focused on mature assets, fields that are already operating but could do better and become cleaner.

Brokers expect sales of around $60 million (£48 million) this year, rising to almost $100 million in 2024. Profits of some $22 million are forecast for 2023, with further growth pencilled in for next year.

Midas verdict: Fossil fuels pollute the planet so consumers and businesses alike need to shift towards renewable power. But the transition will take time and needs to be handled with sensitivity. McDade is determined to do just that at Afentra, delivering benefits for shareholders, customers and African communities. At 25p, the shares are a buy.

Traded on: AIM Ticker: AET Contact: afentraplc.com or 020 7405 4133





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