UPDATE 2-Encana posts big loss, to split U.S. asset sale package

Wed Oct 24, 2012 3:52pm EDT
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* Reports $1.24 bln net loss on noncash charge

* Operating earnings down a third

* Shares drop 2.9 pct (Adds details and comments. In U.S. dollars unless noted)

CALGARY, Alberta, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Encana Corp, Canada's largest gas producer, says it is now seeking several joint-venture partners for its U.S. shale plays, instead of just one, so that it can better compete with a host of other opportunities put on the market by competitors.

The company, which posted a big third-quarter loss on $1.19 billion in noncash charges on Wednesday, said it has opted to split its Eaglebine, Tuscaloosa Marine Shale and Mississipian Lime properties into three separate investment packages rather than trying to find a single partner to develop them.

"There are significant assets available for joint venture in both the Canadian and U.S. marketplace," Randy Eresman, the company's chief executive, said on a conference call.

"We've been advised that a combined Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, Eaglebine and Mississipian Lime package may be too large for most interested parties at this time. So we are allowing the plays to be bid on individually."

Despite the change, Eresman said the company still expects to meet its targets for asset sales and divestitures this year.