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Gulfsands looks for opportunities outside Syria

British oil firm says it aims to build a viable, non-Syrian leg as violence in the Middle Eastern country continues

Reuters , Thursday 2 Feb 2012
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Syria-focused oil firm Gulfsands Petroleum said it would try to build a business outside of the troubled Middle Eastern country as it decided to stop exploring for oil in Syria, six weeks after ceasing production there.

The company also said on Thursday that chief financial officer Andrew Rose would resign from the company in April.

Gulfsands said it was "actively evaluating" new opportunities to establish a non-Syria business after European Union (EU) sanctions against the country forced the company to stop its activities there.

Political violence in Syria has escalated recently after a 10-month uprising against the country's President Bashar al-Assad.

"The overriding objective is to build, as quickly as practicable, a viable non-Syrian leg to the business, within the capacity of the company's present and prospective financial resources to sustain," Gulfsands said in a statement.

The company added that it had cash of $120 million and no debts, giving it confidence that it could endure a long period of uncertainty in Syria.

Gulfsands stopped being involved in production at its oil field in north east Syria, its only cash-generating asset, in December to comply with the sanctions, but until Thursday planned to carry on with its exploration activities.

"While the sanctions do not explicitly preclude further exploration, the board considers such cessation to be consistent with the intent of the sanctions," Gulfsands said.

The departure of CFO Rose, who had been in the position for three and a half years, was amicable, the company said.

Shares in Gulfsands, which have lost about half their value over the last year, closed at 173.75 pence on Wednesday, valuing the firm at 204.6 million pounds ($324.5 million).

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