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Safe Harbor Statement
Statements in this conference call that may contain "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27-A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21-E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended may include, but are not limited to, statements concerning the Company's future operating milestones, future drilling operations, the planned exploration and appraisal program, future prospects, future investment opportunities and financing plans, future shareholders' meetings, response to the Senate Subcommittee investigation, developments in the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of the Company and related proceedings, as well as other matters that are not historical facts or information. Such statements are inherently subject to a variety of risks, assumptions and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated, projected, expressed or implied. A discussion of the risk factors that could impact these areas and the Company's overall business and financial performance can be found in the Company's reports and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These factors include, among others, those relating to the Company's ability to exploit its commercial interests in the Joint Development Zone and the exclusive territorial waters of Sao Tome and Principe, general economic and business conditions, changes in foreign and domestic oil and gas exploration and production activity, competition, changes in foreign, political, social and economic conditions, regulatory initiatives and compliance with governmental regulations and various other matters, many of which are beyond the Company's control. Given these concerns, investors and analysts should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Each forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date of this call. The Company expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statement to reflect any change in the Company's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any forward-looking statement is based.
Good morning! I am Peter Ntephe, Secretary of ERHC, calling from ERHC’s headquarters in Houston, Texas. Also joining today’s conference call, in Houston, are James Ledbetter, ERHC’s vice president in charge of technical matters, Deon Warner of Warner & Associates, ERHC’s corporate counsel, and Mike Madigan and Michael Fitzpatrick with the law firm of Akin Gump, which represents ERHC on matters related to the government investigations.
We recently started coordinating these investor conference call updates on a quarterly basis to keep you abreast of our recent achievements and where we are headed in the near and longer term. Due to the holidays, we delayed this call. We appreciate your patience.
I am happy to report that ERHC worked hard this quarter and throughout the year to strengthen its fundamentals on several levels. As a result, ERHC now has improved its operational efficiencies, strengthened its financial position and continued to grow its relationships with key strategic partners.
We are moving ever closer to the exploratory activities in the Gulf of Guinea and could see initial drilling efforts starting in calendar year 2008. We will provide more information about that in a little bit.
Now I’d like to share with you an overview of ERHC’s fourth quarter financial results:
Through the end of September 2007, which represents the end of our fourth quarter and of our fiscal year, ERHC had cash assets totaling $34.7 million, compared to $41 million at the end of the fourth quarter in fiscal 2006.
I am proud to report that the strict cost controls we implemented throughout the company were effective in reducing our general and administrative expenses. During the quarter, this expense category was down 12 percent compared with the fourth quarter last year.
Our annual general and administrative expenses fell below $5 million, which is a reduction of 17 percent from last year.
For fiscal year 2007, ERHC reported a net loss of approximately $1.76 million. In fiscal year 2006, ERHC reported a net income of approximately $23.1 million, primarily due to a one-time, $30.1 million net gain from the sale of participating interests in portions of the Joint Development Zone.
For the past several years, ERHC has engaged in planning activities to prepare for exploration efforts in the Gulf of Guinea.
Let’s quickly review our interests. ERHC currently holds rights in Joint Development Zone Blocks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9.
Here you see where the JDZ fits into the region. It is a nearly 35,000 square kilometer area adjacent to several large petroleum discovery areas.
We also intend to exploit our rights in São Tomé and Principe’s Exclusive Economic Zone, although we anticipate that exploration of the JDZ will come first.
This is a map of Sao Tome and Principe’s EEZ. The area encompasses 160,000 square kilometers and is in a much earlier stage of development than the JDZ.
Now let’s discuss our progress in the JDZ.
During the past year there has been quite a bit of activity in JDZ Block 2, in which Sinopec is the operator, and JDZ Block 4, in which Addax Petroleum is the operator.
Based on statements from the operators, we believe that deepwater exploration activities could begin in one of these Blocks as early as the fourth quarter of calendar 2008, although the exact timeline could change based on various contingencies.
We will keep you abreast of the specific schedule of activities in future conference calls, but here is a brief overview of where we are in that process:
Addax Petroleum, ERHC’s partner in JDZ Blocks 2, 3, and 4, has contracted a drill ship in a joint venture with Sinopec, which is ERHC’s partner in Block 2. Work on retrofitting the Aban Abraham with the equipment needed for the deep waters of the Gulf of Guinea is underway.
In order to avoid potential delays related to that drill ship, Addax has announced its intention to seek a rig of opportunity. That search is underway.
ERHC, Addax and Sinopec have been working through the technical aspects of identifying the optimal drilling spots in each of the Blocks so we can avoid unnecessary delays once we get started. Addax and Sinopec have announced that they have five firm well slots in JDZ Blocks 2 and 4.
Anadarko, the operator of JDZ Block 3, has not yet indicated a possible timeline for exploration to commence.
It is important to understand that drilling at water depths found in the Gulf of Guinea – 6,000 feet or more – is highly technical and requires custom-built equipment. For instance, instead of conventional platforms that rest on the ocean floor, operators use specially designed and outfitted deepwater drill ships.
Since we have interests in other JDZ Blocks, we also are passing along relevant research data and plans to our partners in those projects in the hopes that we can all benefit from the shared information.
As you may know, ERHC took action to reclaim a nine percent share of JDZ Block 4 after another company did not meet its contractual obligations. Under existing agreements, Addax is entitled to 7.2 percent out of the recovered 9 percent, leaving 1.8 percent remaining with ERHC. We believe that additional consideration is due to ERHC from Addax, but Addax does not agree. We have entered into arbitration to resolve the issue. This is an amicable disagreement and we believe that the relationship between the two companies remains as good as ever.
While our full energies are currently focused on the impending exploratory activities in the Gulf of Guinea, ERHC also is examining some interesting acquisition prospects in North America and other regions of the world. We will keep you posted as these efforts develop.
As for the ongoing investigations, with the guidance of our legal team at Akin Gump, ERHC continues to interface with government investigators. As we indicated in our last conference call in August, there is really no way for us to provide any guidance on how long the fact finding process may go on. We remain focused on protecting the interests of the Company and its shareholders, and on continuing to move forward with our exploratory efforts in the JDZ.
In the last quarterly conference call, we indicated our commitment to enhancing our outreach and community relations activities to advance ERHC’s public image.
In addition to these quarterly conference calls, we periodically issue updates from the chief executive of ERHC.
ERHC is sponsoring the Nigeria Oil & Gas 2008 Conference in Abuja, Nigeria, which takes place February 18th through the 21st. We will have a significant presence as exhibitors at the conference, which will play host to more than 4,000 representatives of the oil and gas industry, including corporate executives, outside vendors, service partners and more than 600 senior delegates.
We also are using our Web site as a primary channel for providing shareholders and members of the community with important information and updates about the company and its progress, and we will continue to do so.
And finally, we have scheduled the annual shareholder’s meeting on April 22nd in Houston, Texas. We are hoping to see as many of you there who can make it.
For more detailed information concerning the Joint Development Zone, the Nigeria-São Tomé and Principe Joint Development Authority, and the company’s Participation Agreements and Partnerships, I invite you to visit our Web site at www.erhc.com.
And now we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
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