ELAND Oil & Gas chief executive George Maxwell has highlighted the benefits of basing the Nigeria-focused business in Aberdeen as he said the firm could achieve a $1 billion (£0.76bn) valuation in future.

Speaking after Eland posted a maiden annual profit of $77.6 million, Mr Maxwell said the firm could use the expertise available in Aberdeen to capitalise on the good growth prospects he sees in West Africa.

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“In Aberdeen we have access to the kind of talent pool that you can’t readily access in London or in country,” he said, adding: “For planning it makes perfect sense to be in Aberdeen.”

Mr Maxwell noted the Granite city is home to operations that provide specialised services Eland can draw on when developing plans to grow its exploration and production operations in Nigeria.These include project design and well completion. Oil services firms with operations in the city have useful experience of operating in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.

Eland has around 40 staff in Aberdeen.

The vote of confidence in the city follows what Mr Maxwell described as a ground-breaking year for Eland.

The Aim-listed company achieved record production and revenues and secured a 20-year extension to the OML 40 licence in the Niger Delta.

Eland has been producing oil from the Opuama field on the licence since 2014, although it has faced challenges amid security concerns.

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The company employs around 120 people in the country, to execute the plans developed in Aberdeen. The workforce includes a small number of expatriates.

Mr Maxwell noted a recent expert report put a valuation of around $600m on Eland’s reserves in Nigeria based on discoveries that have been developed.

Eland expects to drill a well this year on the Amobe prospect, which it reckons could contain around 80 million barrels oil.

Mr Maxwell reckons there are enough opportunities available in Nigeria for Eland to grow to become a $1bn business. The current share price gives Eland a market capitalisation of £265m.

The company said yesterday it would increase its £3m share buy back programme by £3m. Mr Maxwell said the move was intended to reduce volatility in its share price.

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Output averaged 8,000 barrels oil per day in 2018 and 3,934 bopd in 2017. Revenues rose to $169m from $68.9m. Eland lost $15.6m before tax in 2017.