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Is Petroceltic International PLC The Perfect Partner For BP plc?

Shares in oil and gas exploration company, Petroceltic (LSE: PCI), have slumped by over 10% today after it announced the suspension of a planned bond issue, with the company stating that, as a result of volatile conditions, it has been unable to secure financing on the terms it is seeking. In consequence, marketing of the $175m bond issue will be postponed until Petroceltic has completed the transfer of its interest in the Isarene production sharing contract.

Clearly, the market is disappointed with this development and it comes at a time when the company’s outlook is hugely uncertain. As well as a weak oil price hurting Petroceltic’s near-term outlook, its major shareholder, Worldview Capital Management, has apparently been critical of the company’s senior management team. In fact, it has been rumoured that a change in CEO is desired by Worldview, which is also unhappy with the proposed bond issue, too.

Of course, today’s share price fall follows a hugely challenging few months for the company, which have seen its valuation plummet by over 50%. And, with financing in the oil sector being relatively difficult to come by, owing to the increased opportunities that have become available to less risk averse investors, a delay in Petroceltic’s planned fundraising could cause investor sentiment to decline further in the short run. That’s because, with an array of other oil stocks trading on super-low valuations, investors have a great choice available to them, which means that they can be more selective.

One oil stock that is worth choosing to buy at the present time is BP (LSE: BP). It clearly has far superior size, scale and financial strength compared to Petroceltic and, while there have been criticisms levelled at its management team in recent years, the company is riding out a lower oil price, sanctions against Russia and the ongoing fallout from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill very well. In fact, BP’s share price has fallen by just 5% this year and, as its recent results showed, it is making encouraging progress in dealing with a lower oil price environment.

BP is expected to at least maintain dividends over the next two years, which means that it could pay out as much as 13.8% in dividends during that period. As such, it remains a top notch income play and, with strong growth prospects being anticipated during that period, its price to earnings (P/E) ratio is set to fall to just 12.8 next year, which indicates that its shares could be due an upward rerating – even if the price of oil does not pick up considerably in the meantime.

On paper, a combination of a smaller oil play and a larger, more stable stock such as BP makes a lot of sense. They may be able to balance out each other’s weaknesses and provide a mix of income and growth for long term investors. However, while BP is a superb buy at the present time, things could get worse before they get better for Petroceltic, with shareholder disquiet and questions about its financing unlikely to help improve investor sentiment in the near-term. As such, it remains a stock to watch, rather than buy, at the present time.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of BP. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.