January 4, 2012 / 1:42 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 2-Connacher suspends oil sands JV talks; shares plunge

* Says top management quits

* Co has too much leverage, not enough cash - analyst

* Shares fall as much as 24 pct (Adds analyst comments, rewrites throughout)

By Arnav Sharma

Jan 4 (Reuters) - Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd said it suspended a joint venture initiative for its Great Divide oil sands project in Alberta, and some of its executives had left.

The Canadian oil-sands developer’s shares fell as much as 24 percent to 68 Canadian cents in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The shares were the most actively traded on the exchange, with more than 11 million changing hands at 1119 ET.

“Investors wanted to see the joint venture done. The company has too much leverage but not enough cash resources to develop their oil sands assets and investors needed them to bring in a joint venture partner to advance their growth plans,” CIBC World Markets analyst Andrew Potter told Reuters.

The company has been under pressure from Investors to sell itself. Last month, it had turned down an unsolicited takeover proposal.

“The risk of bankruptcy is very low. But yes, they have huge amount of debt. Their debt to capital ratio is eight times, in any rational world that is not a good balance sheet,” Potter added.

The company, which did not reveal who it was talking to for the joint venture, said the process will remain suspended until about mid-February.

Potter said Connacher was targeting “some national oil companies, the majors, and probably some financial companies as well” for the joint venture.

Connacher said its chief operating officer, chief financial officer and vice-president of corporate development “are no longer with the company”.

“It’s not a management overhaul as such. With a bunch of guys leaving and there is no replacement lined up, it just creates a lot of uncertainty,” Potter said.

The company expects to exit 2012 with production in excess of 16,000 boepd, compared with about 14,000 boepd in 2011, it said in a statement on Wednesday. ($1 = 1.0091 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Arnav Das Sharma in Bangalore; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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