In the world of investing nothing is certain, but some companies seem a much surer bet than others. With globalization, investors are searching worldwide for places to park their money, and many are increasingly turning to the so-called "BRIC" countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China, all of which are projected to be major economic powerhouses of the 21st-century.
HRT Participações em Petróleo S.A., commonly referred to simply as HRT, is one such company.
Last October HRT raised $1.54 billion in an initial public offering. HRT has major ambitions - at the time of the IPO, HRT CEO Marcio Rocha Mello said that HRT Participacoes em Petroleo SA aims to be Brazil's largest private oil and gas company within five years.
The IPO was designed to raise capital to finance oil exploration in the two crown jewels in HRT's portfolio, its concessions in Brazil's Solimoes Basin in the Amazon and offshore Namibia in southern Africa. The oil producer plans to invest $1.97 billion in Brazil and $342 million in Africa through 2014 to boost reserves. Months before the IPO, the respected oil auditing firm of Dallas-based DeGolyer & MacNaughton calculated HRT's potential reserves at the two sites at 1.5 billion barrels of oil and equivalents.
HRT has an impressive roster of personnel, as the company was founded by a group of senior geoscientists and engineers who previously held key positions at Petróleo Brasileiro S.A - Petrobras, and the Agência Nacional do Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis (ANP), an independent Brazilian regulatory agency of petroleum, biofuel and natural gas.
On 12 August HRT announced plans to drill 65 exploration wells and develop production at 52 wells by the end of 2014 in a $3.14 billion expenditure program, the company said Friday and will be drilling its first wells in Brazil's Solimoes Basin and in Namibia this year. And in the meantime the company's potential reserve figures continue to rise, as DeGolyer & MacNaughton recently announced the net potential resources at HRT's two Namibian sites, Walvis and Orange, totaled 7.9 billion barrels of oil. The new estimates are based on 1,300 miles of 2D seismic data and 580 square miles of 3D seismic data acquired last year on the two offshore sites.
As for HRT's ambitions, two months ago Mello remarked, "Our dream is to reach production of 1 million barrels per day by 2020," adding that HRT currently has $1.37 billion cash on hand to finance its development program.
HRT is one of an increasing number of independent Brazilian oil companies that have attracted investor attention as alternatives to state-run Petrobras (PETR4.SA), as many see them as both more focused on the high-profit exploration and production side of the oil business and subject to less political interference as well.
HRT's potential has even attracted the attention of Russia's TNK-BP (TNBP.MM) oil company, which is interested in buying the stake in HRT's exploratory blocks held by partner company Petra. TNK-BP is angling to acquire a 45 percent stake in developing 21 oil and gas blocks in the Amazonian Solimoes Basin.
HRT´s shares are listed for trading in the Brazil's Bolsa de Valores, Mercadorias & Futuros de São Paulo (Brazilian Securities, Commodities and Futures Exchange, or BM&FBOVESPA) stock market under the symbol "HRTP3." HRT has entered into an agreement with BM&FBOVESPA to list its shares in the "Novo Mercado" the highest level of the differentiated corporate governance practices, a BM&FBOVESPA practice designed to enhance a listing's attractiveness. Companies listed in the "Novo Mercado" are based on a contractual agreement between BM&FBOVESPA and the listed company, its controlling shareholder, and its management to comply with specified regulations while also agreeing to submit to arbitration to resolve disputes.
Rather than take our word for it, we will leave the last comment to HRT CEO Mello, who noted simply, "We have a queue of people knocking on our door to join the Namibia project." With estimated reserves of 7.9 billion barrels, based on extensive 2D and 3D seismic data, it's hardly surprising.
By. Dr. John C.K. Daly