LONDON -- The shares of Gulf Keystone Petroleum (LSE: GKP ) have slipped 6% to 178 pence so far during 2012, making them some of this year's less impressive performers within the London market.
Gulf Keystone, an oil and gas exploration company with operations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, has suffered mixed responses to various updates during the last 12 months.
During January and February, the shares rallied from less than 200 pence to more than 400 pence as the company updated investors with its drilling progress. In particular, testing at one well revealed enough oil to prompt John Gerstenlauer, Gulf Keystone's chief operating officer, to comment: "Initial results of the Shaikan-4 well testing program are very encouraging with logging results indicating that Shaikan-4 may be the best well which Gulf Keystone has logged to date in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq."
By May, the shares had dropped back to 200 pence, and the fall coincided with what Gulf Keystone described as "continued and unfounded speculation" on some bulletin boards. The rumors concerned an alleged 160 pence share placing, which the company strongly denied. Todd Kozel, Gulf Keystone's chief executive, was even moved to remark: "We will not tolerate malicious attempts to damage the Company's reputation and share price. We have instructed the Company's lawyers to use all means necessary to protect our shareholders from this malicious and unfounded attack."
May also saw Gulf Keystone publish its annual figures, which showed sales of just $7 million and losses of $62 million.
After sliding to a 141 pence low during June, the shares rallied back to 200 pence during July as Gulf Keystone upgraded the potential of its Kurdistan assets. The group lifted its resources estimate from 10.5 billion to 13.7 billion barrels of oil.
However, subsequent half-year results, which showed a $31 million loss, alongside a $300 million convertible bond offer, failed to excite investors. During recent weeks, the price has since slid back below 200 pence.
Of course, whether this year's drilling news, rollercoaster share price, and current 1.6 billion pound market cap now combine to make Gulf Keystone a buy or a sell remains your decision. In fact, if Gulf Keystone is already in your portfolio, you may wish to click here and read the Fool's exclusive oil and gas report to help you determine whether you should take any further action. The free report explains the factors you need to consider -- and the risks you might encounter -- when evaluating oil and gas explorers.