Analysts praise Athabasca Oil for bargain price paid for Statoil oilsands assets

CALGARY _ Observers say Athabasca Oil Corp. (TSX:ATH) is paying a bargain price for all of Statoil’s northern Alberta oilsands assets.

Financial analysts say Statoil, a Norwegian national oil corporation, likely spent billions of dollars to buy an early stage Alberta oilsands company in 2007 and then build its 24,000-barrel-per-day Leismer thermal oilsands project.

The sale announced late Wednesday is worth up to $832 million, but only $435 million of that is payable immediately in cash.

Oilsands investments have drawn criticism from environmentalists in Norway, but Statoil Canada president Paul Fulton says the sale was made for “purely commercial” reasons after Athabasca made an offer earlier this year.

Analyst Nick Lupick of AltaCorp Capital says the price paid by Athabasca equates to just over $24,000 per flowing barrel of production, a bargain even if one doesn’t count a proposed second oilsands project, two 75-kilometre pipelines and 300,000 barrels of storage capacity that were included in the sale.

Statoil says it will record a loss of US$500 million to US$550 million on its oilsands investment.