Hayward said Genel Energy's position as the biggest producer and a major player in a province estimated by the US Geological Survey to contain 40 billion barrels of oil resource and 100 trillion cubic feet of gas made it "a very solid platform indeed from which to pursue profitable growth".
"At a time when the industry is finding it increasingly difficult to attract investment capital we think our strong cash position will bring us attractive acquisition options. Our plan is to make one or more acquisitions and to participate in appropriate new licence rounds. Where acquisitions are concerned, we have three objectives:
"We want to diversify our geographic footprint within the Middle East and Africa regions, we aim to extend the life of our exploration portfolio, and we intend to acquire new technical expertise and capability."
Hayward said the company's technical teams had reviewed more than a dozen investment options in the eastern Mediterranean and in Africa over recent months. "This is not a process we intend to rush," he said. "Our over-riding determination is to secure value for our investors, so we will screen those opportunities with the utmost rigour, and if we fail to find the right opportunities over the next few years, we will return the cash to our shareholders."
On the issue of political stability in the area, Hayward told investors that in the 20 years since it was established the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq had seen extraordinary progress. "Successive governments have focussed on creating a secure and stable environment, with considerable success. For instance, there has not been a single terrorist incident in the Kurdistan Region since 2006.
"The democratically-elected government has established the rule of law and embraced the private sector with a minimum of bureaucracy and red tape. The results have been impressive, with GDP per capita up from $800 in 2003 to $4,500 in 2010.