(EnergyAsia, Feb 24) — Australian upstream company Santos Limited said it achieved higher sales revenue, profit and dividend for the year ended December 31 2004.


Full year earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) improved by 23% to A$574 million compared with A$466 million in 2003. (US$1=A$1.25).


Net profit rose by 16% to A$380 million from A$327 million on group sales revenue that rose 2.5% to a record A$1,501 million.


Santos’ board has increased the final dividend on ordinary shares from 15 cents to a fully franked 18 cents per share, taking the total 2004 dividend to a fully franked 33 cents per share, compared with 30 cents per share in each of the four previous years.


The company said its gearing (net debt to total capital) increased only slightly from 22.5% to 24.4%, notwithstanding record 2004 total capital spending of A$930 million.


Santos chairman Stephen Gerlach said the board’s decision to increase the final dividend from 15 cents to a fully franked 18 cents per share had been made following the full year profit improvement and a positive 2005 outlook.


“This higher dividend is a strong signal to shareholders of the Board’s confidence that Santos will to continue to grow earnings in the future,” Mr Gerlach said.


Managing director John Ellice-Flint said the company achieved most of its goals last year.


“One of the most notable achievements reflected in our improved 2004 result is the ability and commitment of the entire Santos team to achieve the company’s goals.


“In particular, we were able to successfully implement a significant continuous improvement and productivity enhancement program, which has reduced the company workforce by 16%, halved the number of senior executives and is on track to contribute A$23 million towards profit in 2005, together with achieving significant capital savings.”


Santos said its record A$1.5 billion full year sales revenue last year reflected a 21.5% jump in second half sales to A$910 million Ð a record for any half in the company’s history.