Just weeks after Berry Petroleum Co. set up a joint exploration and development agreement with the Ute Indian Tribe to develop acreage in the Uinta Basin of Utah, the Bakersfield, CA-based producer said it would increase its 2004 capital budget 68% to $70 million. It also authorized a 4-cent/share increase in its annual dividend and added a special dividend of 6 cents/share.

“The company is experiencing a record year in 2004, and we believe our shareholders should participate in the record cash generated from operating activities,” said CEO Robert Heinemann. “Commodity prices have been and continue to be very strong and this enables the company to increase its dividend level. Consistent with the board’s ongoing commitment to growing the company, we are continuing to invest in our core properties while actively pursuing acquisition opportunities.”

In July, Berry announced an agreement with an undisclosed industry partner to jointly explore 125,000 acres of tribal lands in the Uinta Basin, and it agreed to purchase an interest in 46,000 acres of fee lands adjacent or near the tribal acreage (see Daily GPI, July 21). The new acreage is west of Berry’s Brundage Canyon field where it is currently producing 4,500 boe/d.

The regular quarterly dividend was increased by 9%, from 11 cents/share to 12 cents, beginning with the September 2004 dividend. The regular quarterly dividend, along with the special dividend of 6 cents, will be paid on Sept. 29 to shareholders of record on Sept. 13. Berry has approximately 22.2 million shares presently outstanding.

In the second quarter, Berry produced a record average 20,315 boe/d, a 32% increase from an average of 15,397 boe/d over 2Q2003. Berry produced 15,973 boe/d from its California assets and 4,342 boe/d from its assets in the Rockies. Companywide, oil production averaged 19,182 bbl/d (94% of total) and natural gas production averaged 6,799 Mcf/d.

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