May 20, 2020 / 11:27 AM / 3 months ago

Wintershall pessimistic on oil, gas prices, boosts balance sheet

LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German-Russian gas and oil company Wintershall Dea [WINT.UL] does not expect commodity prices to recover quickly and plans to use its 2.4 billion euros ($2.63 billion) of liquidity mainly to cushion its balance sheet in the coronavirus crisis, its chief financial officer told Reuters.

“The bolstering of our defences is more in response to the environment and absorbing future shocks. We think we’re far from through this storm,” CFO Paul Smith said in an interview on Wednesday after the company released weaker first-quarter financial results.

“We’re not building a war chest here for (mergers and acquisitions),” he said.

The company, formerly BASF’s oil and gas subsidiary, merged with DEA last year, helping it to cut overhead and build scale ahead of a planned initial public offering.

That is now off the table, although Chief Executive Mario Mehren said the company was still aiming to be “IPO-ready”.

Of the 2.4 billion euros in liquidity, most is cash on the balance sheet, 450 million euros is a short-term working capital line for less than a year, and the rest is a revolving credit facility up to 2025 that the company hopes will go unused.

The depressed energy market environment in the pandemic crisis, which has seen demand slump, is generating much uncertainty about the pace of global recovery, Smith said.

“This is a multi-year, volatile, challenged commodity price environment on both the oil and the gas side that we need to navigate our way through,” he said.

The company has legacy hedges amounting to 20,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, equivalent to 5% of its total production portfolio and worth 250 million euros, that serve as a shock absorber, he added.

Reporting by Vera Eckert and Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Michelle Martin and XXX

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