SOCO International plc ("SOCO" or the "Company")

SOCO is an international oil and gas exploration and production company, headquartered in London, traded on the London Stock Exchange and a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. The Company has interests in Vietnam, Thailand, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) and Angola.

HIGHLIGHTS

Financial – Record first half turnover and after tax profit from continuing operations

  1. Revenues of $66.6 million
  2. After tax profit for the period of $31.6 million
  3. Strong cash and liquid investment balance of $294 million


Operational

  1. Production of 6,734 BOEPD from CNV and Bualuang fields
  2. Marine XIV seismic concluded and Marine XI drilling to commence in days


Outlook

    Commencing extensive exploration and appraisal programme in Africa and Vietnam targeting over 600 million barrels of mean, unrisked recoverable reserves
  1. Accelerating TGT field development programme with first oil targeted mid-2011
  2. Operations fully funded and supported by increased cash flow from producing assets



Ed Story, Chief Executive commented:
"In the first six months of the year SOCO has continued to perform strongly, progressing its key development projects, increasing production and setting the stage for the most extensive exploration campaign in the Company’s history. Our Africa portfolio is an exciting opportunity to create a significant new growth story. The drilling in Congo will begin this month and with Vietnam development projects only awaiting final regulatory approval SOCO is well positioned to continue to deliver growth and value to shareholders."

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SOCO INTERNATIONAL PLC
HALF YEAR REPORT FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDED 30 JUNE 2009

SOCO is pleased to announce record first half turnover of $66.6 million and after tax profit from continuing operations of $31.6 million. Additionally, SOCO retains a very strong balance sheet and has not needed to secure additional funding. Both are significant achievements, particularly when taken in the context of the recent industry and economic environment.

The Company has also made good progress in lining out production projects in Vietnam and Thailand, gained national oil company approval of the development area on the Te Giac Trang (TGT) field, the largest field discovery in the Company’s history, received an award for an extremely prospective appraisal area in Vietnam and added to its attractive portfolio of exploration assets in its newest core area in Africa.

Not only have we had a notable first six months of the year, over the next 12 to 18 months we will be involved in one of the most active exploration campaigns in our history, targeting mean, unrisked exploration potential upwards of 600 million barrels of recoverable crude oil.

In Vietnam, we completed the initial phase of the development programme on the Ca Ngu Vang (CNV) field. We are assessing the results, which indicate that the eastern lobe of the Basement field has less intensive fracturing, before deciding how to progress further development.
On 1 July 2009, Petrovietnam became a full paying participant on its 41% share of the TGT field development after approving the TGT Field Development Area, which is targeted for first oil in mid-2011.

In Africa, as operator, we conducted a seismic programme in Marine XIV offshore Congo (Brazzaville), after receiving governmental approval of our farm-in earlier this year. Also in Congo (Brazzaville), preparations for a two well drilling campaign in Marine XI have been nearly completed as the first well is expected to spud in mid-August. Initial interpretation on seismic acquired last year in the Nganzi Block onshore Congo (Kinshasa) is underway and several interesting leads have already been identified with early indications of 100 million barrel plus potential. Seismic acquisition is due to recommence this month in Angola in the Cabinda North province.

With a full period of production, averaging 6,734 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOEPD) combined from the CNV project and the Bualuang project in Thailand, the Group reported record first half after tax profit of $31.6 million. After capital expenditures of just over $36 million in the first half, cash and liquid investment balances as at 30 June 2009 were $294 million. With consideration for the upcoming exploration and development programme and the one time early redemption option for the convertible bonds in May of next year, the Directors do not recommend a dividend.

OPERATIONS

SOUTH EAST ASIA

VIETNAM

The Company’s interests in the Cuu Long Basin are held through two companies, SOCO Vietnam Ltd (SOCO Vietnam), its 80% owned subsidiary, and its wholly owned subsidiary, OPECO, Inc. SOCO Vietnam holds a 25% working interest in Block 9-2, which is operated by the Hoan Vu Joint Operating Company (HVJOC) and holds a 28.5% working interest in Block 16-1, which is operated by the Hoang Long Joint Operating Company (HLJOC). OPECO, Inc. holds a 2% working interest in Block 16-1.

The Cuu Long Basin is a shallow water, near shore, oil rich basin defined by several high profile producing oil fields, the largest of which has been the Bach Ho field, which lies adjacent to both Block 9-2 and Block 16-1. Bach Ho has produced more than one billion barrels of oil to date.

Block 16-1

Te Giac Trang
The HLJOC received approval from Petrovietnam of the Field Development Area for the TGT field in May of this year. Subsequently Petrovietnam assumed funding of its 41% share of development costs as of 1 July. The Field Development Plan (FDP) has been submitted for Governmental approval, the final hurdle in the regulatory process. Preparation of the FDP for submission has been an interactive process in conjunction with the appropriate regulatory and review committees and approval is anticipated to be relatively straightforward.

First oil is targeted for mid-2011. Tenders for a number of long lead items have been issued. Bids from the potential floating, production, storage and offloading vessel providers are currently under review. To date, seven exploration/appraisal wells have been drilled in the TGT field, with an average oil and gas flow of approximately 11,300 BOEPD from each well.

Appraisal Areas
In April, the Company was informed by the HLJOC that the Vietnamese Government had approved, with agreed work programmes, the application for the Te Giac Den (TGD) and Voi Trang (VT) Appraisal Areas within Block 16-1.

The TGD Appraisal Area encompasses an area of 150 square kilometres including the high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) discovery well TGD-1X-ST1 on Prospect E, and the analogous E South Prospect. This area borders the southern boundary of the TGT field. Seismic reprocessing over the TGD appraisal area and the TGT field is currently underway with final results expected in September/October 2009. Initial preparation has begun for drilling a TGD appraisal well in the second/third quarter of 2010.

Following an assessment of the commerciality of the previous discoveries in the awarded area in the VT Appraisal Area, the HLJOC opted to relinquish this area. Petrovietnam issued a formal approval of the relinquishment in July.

Block 9-2

Ca Ngu Vang
With the drilling and suspension of the CNV-6P development well, the initial phase of the development drilling programme of this field, which was brought on production in July of 2008, has been concluded. Based on the wells drilled thus far, the fracturing in the eastern lobe of the field of the Basement reservoir is not as intense as that indicated by wells drilled in other parts of the structure.

It is premature to speculate as to any impact on recoverable reserves or ultimate lined out production rates. The HVJOC will continue to analyse results of the drilling and performance to date before commencing water injection and considering further drilling options later in the year.

Production net to the Group’s working interest has averaged 3,083 BOEPD for the first six months of 2009.

THAILAND

Bualuang field

SOCO’s 99.93% owned Thailand subsidiary, SOCO Exploration (Thailand) Co. Ltd. (SOCO Thai), holds a 40% interest in the Bualuang oilfield located offshore in the Gulf of Thailand.

In the second quarter of this year, the operator drilled two horizontal attic wells in the field. The purpose was to maximise oil production from the strong water driven reservoir, whilst minimising production of water. Production net to the Group’s working interest averaged 2,663 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) prior to drilling these wells, increasing to 4,412 BOPD for the 15 days preceding this report and subsequent to bringing the two new wells on production. For the full period, production net to the Group’s working interest averaged 3,651 BOPD for the first half of 2009.

In the first half of 2009, the operator reported a reserves upgrade in the field, rising from 20 million gross proven and probable barrels of oil to 26.3 million gross proven and probable barrels of oil recoverable. Under the terms of the farm-out to the operator, within 12 months of the end of the Phase II period, the Farmee will engage an independent reservoir engineer to perform an analysis of the proven reserves contained in the Bualuang field. The Farmee will pay SOCO Thai an amount equal to one dollar for each barrel of proven reserves over 10.4 million barrels.

AFRICA

REPUBLIC OF CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE)

SOCO Exploration and Production Congo SA (SOCO EPC), which is held through the Company’s 85% owned subsidiary SOCO Congo Limited, holds an interest in and is the designated operator of the Marine XI and Marine XIV Blocks offshore the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).

Marine XI

SOCO EPC has finalised the terms of a rig contract for a two well drilling programme in the Marine XI Block that is expected to commence within days of this report as the rig is now in transit to the location to commence the Liyeke well on the S1 prospect. The Liyeke well is targeting a Sendji prospect above the salt layer. A follow-up well will appraise the existing sub-salt Viodo oil field at a location approximately one kilometre from the field discovery well.

Marine XIV

In March, SOCO EPC received Governmental approval for its farm-in to the Marine XIV Block. Since that time, SOCO EPC, as operator, has completed a 100 square kilometre multi-azimuthal 3D seismic programme. The seismic is currently being processed and a well is planned for 2010.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (KINSHASA)

SOCO DRC Limited (SOCO DRC), the Company’s 85% owned subsidiary holds 99.9% of SOCO Exploration and Production DRC Sprl (SOCO E&P DRC), the designated operator with an 85% working interest in the 800 square kilometre Nganzi Block, onshore the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa). Cohydro, the state owned oil company, holds the remaining 15% interest.

SOCO E&P DRC completed a 360 kilometre 2D seismic survey late last year over the coastal Nganzi Block. Initial interpretation of the processed seismic has been very encouraging as several large structures have been identified. Interpretation will continue with drilling likely to commence in the second half of 2010.

The Group’s applications for licences elsewhere in the country are pending a Presidential Decree on Block 5 in the Albertine Graben and the finalisation of a production sharing agreement on a large interior block.

ANGOLA

Cabinda North

SOCO Cabinda Limited (SOCO Cabinda) holds a 17% participating interest in the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) for the Cabinda Onshore North Block. SOCO holds 80% of the interest in SOCO Cabinda. Sonangol P&P, the Angolan state owned oil company, holds a 20% interest in the PSA and is operator.

The same contractor that conducted the seismic programme on the Nganzi Block has been mobilised to acquire both 2D and 3D seismic in Cabinda North. Acquisition of the 2D seismic began earlier this month.

FINANCIAL RESULTS

Start up of production operations in the Group’s CNV field in Vietnam in July 2008 was shortly followed by production from the Bualuang field in Thailand in August 2008. Accordingly, these interim results report the first return to a full six months of production operations since the sale of the Group’s Yemen asset in April 2008.

INCOME STATEMENT

Operating results

Group oil and gas revenues from continuing operations in the first half of 2009 were $66.6 million compared with $55.3 million in the second half of 2008 following the start-up of production operations in Vietnam and Thailand. During the first six months of 2009, the Group realised a price of $47.48 per barrel of oil compared to $55.27 per barrel in the period from start up of operations in South East Asia to year end 2008. The Group’s working interest share of production from continuing operations during the period was 6,734 BOEPD up from 2,533 BOEPD averaged over 2008 (6,415 BOEPD averaged over the period from start up to year end 2008).

Cost of sales on continuing operations in the period was $19.1 million for the six month period to 30 June 2009 up from $18.9 million in the second half of 2008, which included approximately five months of operations from the CNV field and four months from the Bualuang field. On a per barrel basis, excluding inventory, operating costs were approximately $10.70 per barrel compared to $13.50 per barrel in the second half of 2008. Higher operating costs in the initial months of production during 2008 were anticipated as it is common with start-up operations that production levels during the first few months can be erratic due to initial testing of well flow capability and minor operational interruptions. As production levels have stabilised, operating costs per barrel have reduced.

Depreciation, depletion and decommissioning costs (DD&A) on continuing operations included in cost of sales was $9.9 million compared to $7.9 million in the second half of 2008 consistent with greater production. On a per barrel basis, DD&A remained at approximately $6.00 per barrel (as compared to the second half of 2008).

Administrative costs relating to continuing operations for the first six months increased from $3.2 million in 2008 to $3.5 million in 2009. Although offset by the effects of the weaker GB Pound and reduced payroll costs, the increase is primarily associated with a greater proportion of the Group’s overhead being attributed to the Company’s corporate activities.

Operating profit for the period was $44.0 million arising from the Group’s continuing production operations in Vietnam and Thailand.

Non-operating results

Investment income reduced from $2.7 million in the first half of 2008 to $1.7 million for the current period, despite a higher average cash balance following the completion of the Yemen sale in April 2008, reflecting lower interest rates as a result of the deteriorating economic climate.

The increase in other gains and losses from $0.6 million in the first half of 2008 to $0.9 million in the first half of 2009 is primarily due to a higher gain in the period on the change in fair value of the financial asset (associated with the subsequent payment amount tied to future oil production from the Group’s divested Mongolia interest) mainly due to revision of the risk free interest rate.

CASH AND LIQUID INVESTMENTS

SOCO’s cash, cash equivalents and liquid investments at 30 June 2009 was $294.0 million (31 December 2008 - $303.4 million and 30 June 2008 - $410.2 million). This reduction is a result of the Group’s capital development programmes in Vietnam and Thailand and exploration activity in Africa offset by cash inflows from the new production operations in Vietnam and Thailand.

As the Group has a strong financial position it has purchased short term liquid investments of over six months maturity in order to maximise investment revenues. As at 30 June 2009 the Group had liquid investments of $102.1 million (31 December 2008 and 30 June 2008 - $nil) and cash and cash equivalents of $191.9 million (31 December 2008 - $303.4 million and 30 June 2008 - $410.2 million).

DEBT

As at 30 June 2009 the Group’s only debt was the convertible bonds issued in 2006 at a par of $250 million, further details of which are in Note 23 to the 2008 Annual Report and Accounts. The liability component of the bonds has been reclassified as a current liability on the balance sheet as at 30 June 2009 as the bonds may be redeemed at par at the option of each bondholder on 16 May 2010.

CAPITAL EXPENDITURE

Capital expenditure of $36.2 million in the first half of 2009 was lower than the $120.7 million spend in the first half of 2008 following the successful hook up and completion of the majority of the Group’s construction and development activities on the CNV field in Vietnam and the Bualuang development in Thailand in 2008. During the current period certain development activities continued on these projects including the drilling of two additional development wells in Thailand and the completion of a development well and a capital workover in Vietnam. In addition, there was exploration activity in the Group’s Africa region where in Marine XIV a seismic acquisition programme was conducted and in Marine XI preparations for the drilling campaign commenced.

PRODUCTION

During the first half of 2009 the Group’s production, net to the Group’s working interest, of 6,734 BOEPD was sourced from its CNV field in Vietnam (3,083 BOEPD) and its Bualuang field in Thailand (3,651 BOPD). This is up, on a pro rata basis, from 6,501 BOEPD in the equivalent period last year from its Yemen interest prior to its disposal in April 2008. This is also an increase from 4,464 BOEPD produced in 2008 from both continuing and discontinued operations.

RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS

There have been no material related party transactions in the period and there have been no material changes to the related party transactions described in Note 33 to the Consolidated Financial Statements contained in the 2008 Annual Report and Accounts.

RISKS AND UNCERTAINTIES

There are a number of potential risks and uncertainties which could have a material impact on the Group’s performance over the remaining six months of 2009 and could cause actual results to differ materially from expected and historical results. Risks and uncertainties that remain unchanged from those published in the 2008 Annual Report and Accounts are summarised below:

  1. Credit risk – in respect of the Group’s financial asset at fair value through profit or loss arising on the Group’s disposal of its Mongolia interest and short term financial assets.

  2. Foreign currency risk – associated with cash balances held in non-US dollar denominations.

  3. Liquidity risk – associated with meeting the Group’s cash requirements.

  4. Interest rate risk – applicable to the Group’s cash balances, debt and financial asset.

  5. Commodity price risk – associated with the Group’s sales of oil and gas.

  6. Capital risk management – in relation to Group financing.

  7. Political risk – arising in countries where the Group has an interest.

  8. Reserves risk – associated with inherent uncertainties in the application of standard recognised evaluation techniques to estimate proven and probable reserves.


Further information on the above principal risks and uncertainties of the Group is included in the Financial Review section of the 2008 Annual Report and Accounts and in Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements in that report.

GOING CONCERN

The Group has a strong financial position and, after making enquiries and taking into account the potential redemption of the convertible bond in May 2010, the Directors have a reasonable expectation that the Group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future. Consequently the Directors believe that the Group is able to manage its financial and operating risks and, accordingly, they continue to adopt the going concern basis in preparing the Half Year Report.

CORPORATE

Board

As previously reported, John Snyder, a Director since the Company’s initial listing on the London Stock Exchange, resigned from the Board at the 2009 Annual General Meeting. In June, SOCO announced the appointment of Ambassador António Monteiro as a Non-executive Director. Ambassador Monteiro is also expected to be appointed to two of the Board’s Committees. Ambassador Monteiro’s extensive experience in the countries in which SOCO has built its newest core area in Africa is expected to be a significant and complementary skill to the Board.

Corporate Broker

In June, SOCO announced the appointment of J.P. Morgan Cazenove as its joint Corporate Broker alongside Merrill Lynch.

OUTLOOK

This month the Group will initiate the most extensive exploration/appraisal drilling campaign of any 12 month period in its history. During this period, we expect exposure to our share of more than 600 million barrels of mean, unrisked recoverable barrels of crude oil. Add to this the acceleration into the second development in Vietnam at the TGT field development, the largest development operation in the Company’s history, and the future looks very promising.

SOCO has significant assets in each part of the oil and gas cycle of exploration, development and production and continues to move each project forward to identify and capture their potential while, at the same time, searching for new opportunities. The Company has the experience, resources and financial capability to maintain its momentum to maximise its value for its shareholders.

 

Rui de Sousa    
Chairman


Ed Story
President and Chief Executive


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RESPONSIBILITY STATEMENT

We confirm to the best of our knowledge:

  1. The condensed set of financial statements has been prepared in accordance with IAS 34 Interim Financial Reporting;

  2. The interim management report includes a fair review of the information required by DTR 4.2.7R (indication of important events during the first six months and description of principal risks and uncertainties for the remaining six months of the year); and

  3. The interim management report includes a fair review of the information required by DTR 4.2.8R (disclosure of related parties’ transaction and changes therein).



By order of the Board
Roger Cagle
Chief Financial Officer
11 August 2009

DISCLAIMER

This Half Year Report has been prepared solely to provide additional information to shareholders to assess the Group’s strategies and the potential for those strategies to succeed. The Half Year Report should not be relied on by any other party or for any other purpose.

The Half Year Report contains certain forward-looking statements. These statements are made by the Directors in good faith based on the information available to them up to the time of their approval of this report and such statements should be treated with caution due to the inherent uncertainties, including both economic and business risk factors, underlying any such forward-looking information.

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