Santos Limited is in a stronger growth position now than at any time in its history, the Company’s Chairman, Mr Stephen Gerlach, told shareholders at today’s annual general meeting in Adelaide.
As part of its ongoing expansion strategy, Santos also today announced a further significant increase in its 2005 oil and gas exploration program in Australia and overseas.
Mr Gerlach said Santos had changed considerably from humble beginnings in the 1950s when the Company’s founders first started exploring for hydrocarbons in the deserts of the Cooper Basin in central Australia.
“Your current Board and Management are building on that “change” process, by transforming Santos into a truly global exploration and production company,” he said.
Mr Gerlach said Santos’ highlights of the past year included a strong financial performance that delivered total returns to shareholders of 28%, including share price appreciation and dividends paid.
“This is a significant increase from the 20% return achieved in 2003 and is well above our target of at least 14%,” he said.
“Dividend payments were increased to a total of 33 cents a share for the year and were again fully franked. This represents a grossed up yield of around 5% and marks the 28th successive year in which your Company has paid a dividend.
“Our strong cash flow and low gearing provide us with confidence that, notwithstanding a substantial capital expenditure program to achieve further growth, Santos is well positioned to be able to maintain its current level of dividend payments,” he said.