Tullow resumes the dividend after reporting the first profit in five years

Tullow Oil, the Africa-based oil and gas explorer, brought forward its resumption of dividends after reporting its first net profit for five years.

The London-listed group, which ended payouts to shareholders in 2015 in the middle of the oil price crash, said it would pay a final dividend for 2018 of 4.8 cents per share in May, totaling $ 67 million.

Tullow promised in November to pay at least $ 100 million a year to shareholders from 2019, but Paul McDade, chief executive, said the company had decided to start the dividend program early after several years of hard work to balance the company to improve.

James Hosie, analyst at Barclays, said the payment of the early dividend was "a positive surprise". The shares in Tullow rose Wednesday by 4 percent against 220p during lunch.

Tullow returned to earnings in 2018 with a net amount of $ 85 million for the full year of a $ 175 million loss in 2017, with sales of $ 1.9 billion compared to $ 1.7 billion a year earlier. It generated a profit before tax of 2018 of $ 261 million versus a loss of $ 286 million in 2017.

Like many of the other so-called independent oil developers and producers, Tullow was caught by the crash of oil prices that began in 2014, and hit heavy debts after having committed to the development of capital-intensive projects.

The company still has an indebtedness of $ 3.1 billion, down nearly $ 3.5 billion in 2017, but Mr. McDade said it hoped that by the end of 2019 it will further reduce to $ 2.5 billion.

"In recent years, Tullow has worked hard to become a self-financing, cash-generating company with a solid balance sheet, low-cost assets and a rigorous focus on cost and capital discipline," said Mr. McDade. Tullow's efforts to reduce its debt burden include cash injections of $ 750 million from shareholders in 2017.

Last year the company got a boost by increasing the average price of its production to $ 68.5 per barrel from $ 58.3 a year earlier, although the average daily production of its projects in West Africa, which supported the group, slightly decreased to 88,200 barrels of oil per day from 89,100 b / d in 2017. It expects this year to increase production from the region to 93,000 b / d and 101,000 b / d.

Tullow also plans to make final investment decisions this year on important projects in Kenya and Uganda. The company has a 50 percent interest in the South Lokichar basin project in Kenya, while the remaining business space is divided between Total Oil and Total Africa Oil from France.

Mr McDade said the company hoped to sell part of its holding in the Kenyan settlement before the final investment decision, although no discussions are under way.

The project in Uganda was at the center of a tax dispute with the authorities of the country after Tullow closed a $ 900 million deal in 2017 to sell a share of the scheme to Total and Cnooc of China.

This delayed the sale, but Tullow said Wednesday had agreed with "the principles" on how much capital gain tax it would pay.