Enterprise Oil returns to black

ENTERPRISE OIL, one of Britain's largest independent oil exploration and production companies, said it had returned to the black but attributed the improvement to cutting costs rather than the recent resurgence in the oil price.

In the six months to June, profit after tax was pounds 35.6m compared with a loss of pounds 2m last year, after adjustment for asset disposals in 1998. Chief executive Pierre Jungels said: "We restored margins and profits in a low oil-price environment."

Brent crude averaged $13.54 a barrel in the first half of this year, compared with $13.60 in the same period of 1998. It has since rebounded to more than $20. Enterprise said its cost of sales per barrel of oil equivalent dropped to pounds 5.08 in the half compared with the previous half's pounds 5.80. Turnover for the period was pounds 293.4m compared with 1998's pounds 288m.

Enterprise shares, which have risen more than 60 per cent since the start of the year, ended yesterday up 9p at 486p.