Santos reports record first half free cash flow and underlying earnings, and higher shareholder returns

by PNG Business News - August 17, 2022

Photo credit: Jason Reed

Santos today announced its half-year results for 2022, reporting record free cash flow of US$1.7 billion and underlying profit of US$1.3 billion. The results reflect significantly higher oil and LNG prices compared to the corresponding period due to stronger global energy demand combined with a higher interest in PNG LNG following the Oil Search merger.

Santos intends to return US$605 million to shareholders (equivalent to US18 cents per share) under the company’s capital management framework, comprising a 38 per cent increase in the interim dividend to US7.6 cents per share unfranked (US$255 million) and an increase in the previously announced on-market share buyback from US$250 million to US$350 million.

The US$350 million on-market buyback is inclusive of the US$250 million initial on-market buyback announced in April 2022, of which US$174 million had been completed by the end of June 2022. Santos intends to return the remaining US$176 million to shareholders via onmarket share buybacks during the remainder of 2022.

Santos Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Gallagher said Santos delivered record production, free cash flow and underlying earnings in the first half 2022 as the company benefited from strong customer demand for our products and higher commodity prices.

“Demand for our products has remained strong in both Australia and internationally, due to increased demand and shortages of supply from producing nations due global underinvestment in new supply,” Mr Gallagher said.

“We are seeing these issues play out in the significant shift in global energy policy towards energy security as a key priority.

“Our critical fuels not only play a key role in the energy security of Australia and Asia, but they also provide affordable and reliable alternatives to switch from higher emitting fuels.

“Today’s results demonstrate the strength of Santos, with strong diversified cashflows and capacity to provide sustainable shareholder returns, fund new developments and the transition to a lower carbon future.

“Strong first half free cash flows mean we are in a position to deliver higher shareholder returns through an increase in the interim dividend and on-market buyback, consistent with our disciplined capital management framework.”

Santos also announced today a final investment decision has been taken to proceed with the Pikka Phase 1 oil project located on the North Slope of Alaska. Further detail is available in Santos’ separate ASX announcement on the project dated 17 August 2022.

Santos is also in advanced discussions with shortlisted counterparties for the sale of a five per cent interest in the PNG LNG project. Throughout this process, there has been strong interest from reputable counterparties with expected proceeds in-line with market consensus valuation. Santos intends to retain a 37.5 per cent stake in PNG LNG.

 

Article courtesy of Santos



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PNG Business News - July 22, 2021

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PNG Business News - September 28, 2022

PNG’s minimum wage

Commentary by Stephen Howes, Kingtau Mambon and Kelly Samof The urban minimum wage has been an important part of Papua New Guinea’s economic history. In the last few years before independence (in 1975), it was greatly increased. In the decade or so after independence, it was widely regarded as too high. In 1992, it was slashed, merged with the rural minimum, and hardly increased again for more than a decade. We can compare the minimum wage in PNG today with other Asia and Pacific developing countries using International Labour Organization (ILO) data. As Figure 1 shows, PNG’s minimum wage is 18% below the average of the 19 countries shown if the market exchange rate is used to compare minimum wages. It is 37% below the average if differences in cost of living are also taken into account (with conversions made on the basis not of market exchange rates but so-called purchasing power parities or PPPs). The greater difference in terms of PPPs reflects PNG’s relatively high cost of living. Of the countries shown, only Samoa and Kiribati have a lower minimum wage than PNG when a PPP comparison is made. This is very different to the past. Raymond Goodman, Charles Lepani and David Morawetz in their 1985 report The economy of Papua New Guinea compared minimum wages in PNG with a subset of the countries above back in 1978. Then, the PNG minimum wage was about twice as big or more than the other comparators. Today (using market exchange rates, and the earlier authors do), PNG comes in the middle of the pack, as Figure 2 shows. So far, we have shown that around the time of independence minimum wages were very high in PNG by international standards, and that they no longer are. Figure 3 shows how this change came about – also, for interest, comparing trends in PNG with those in Australia. Both the PNG and Australian weekly minimum wages are shown in Figure 3 measured in Australian dollars. The PNG minimum wage is converted into Australian dollars using the current exchange rate. Both wages are then adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2021 prices. The two series follow diametrically opposed paths. The Australian minimum wage fell with the high inflation of the 1970s and industrial relations reforms of the 1980s, and by the early 1990s was little more than half its value in the 1970s. It then increased in the late 1990s and 2000s during the resource boom, and has continued to increase. Adjusting for inflation, it is now almost back to where it was in the early 1970s. The PNG minimum wage does the opposite. It increased in the 1970s and was then held stable due to indexation, until the big bang reforms of 1992. Adjusted for inflation, PNG’s minimum wage continued to fall until 2004. There have since been some significant increases, but today PNG’s minimum wage is only about one-third of its value at independence, and below its value even in 1972, which is when the steep minimum wage increases began. The Australian minimum wage has always been significantly higher than the PNG one, but the ratio has changed a lot over time. The lowest that ratio has ever been is 2.2 in 1986, the highest 45 in 2004. The gap between the two wages is much higher now than at independence: the ratio of the Australian to the PNG minimum wage was 14.5 in 2021, compared to only 3.2 at independence (1975). This reflects PNG’s 1992 deregulation, and the faster growth in the Australian economy, which has enabled an increase in the Australian minimum wage. The solution to low wages in PNG is not necessarily to increase the minimum. In some sectors, where there is a lot of international competition, a higher minimum wage might lead to job losses. For example, in tuna processing, one of PNG’s main competitors is the Philippines. From Figure 1, we can see that PNG’s minimum wage is lower than the Philippines' on the basis of PPPs, but actually higher on the basis of market exchange rates. While the former is what matters for the welfare of workers, the latter is what matters for international competitiveness. Whether PNG’s minimum wage should be increased will require a lot more analysis. The point of this blog is simply that PNG’s minimum wage does not look high any more by international comparisons, as it has fallen a lot since independence. PNG is often described as a high-cost economy, and this is a fair description. However, with regards to unskilled labour, it is no longer a high-wage economy.   Data note: The PNG Economic Database provides the weekly minimum wage of PNG going back to 1972, and the PGK-AUD exchange rate. Wikipedia provides the Australian weekly minimum wage data (hourly and weekly, on the assumption of a 38-hour week) starting from 1966. The Australian CPI is from the Australian aid tracker. There are some years where Australian minimum wage rates change more than once in a year. For such cases, we took the average as annual minimum wage rate. The data for Asia-Pacific comparisons are from the International Labour Organization and the World Bank. The different frequencies of minimum wages for each country in 2019 in the ILO’s report are adjusted to convert to weekly rates. World Bank data is used to obtain market exchange rates and PPP conversion factors. For the Goodman, et al., data go to Table 3.6 on p.61 in their report.\ Disclosure: This research was undertaken with the support of the ANU-UPNG Partnership, an initiative of the PNG-Australia Partnership, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The views are those of the authors only. This article appeared first on Devpolicy Blog (devpolicy.org), from the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University. Stephen Howes is Director of the Development Policy Centre and Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy, at The Australian National University. Kingtau Mambon is currently undertaking a Master of International and Development Economics at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, for which he was awarded a scholarship through the ANU-UPNG Partnership. Kelly Samof is a lecturer in economics at the School of Business and Public Policy, University of Papua New Guinea.

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