There Are Still Great Values at Independent Oil E&P Companies

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Global oil markets never seem to sit still. Crude oil prices, of course, vary minute by minute nearly 24-hours a day, but that is only the most visible manifestation of the action. A technological breakthrough like hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has changed the face of the oil markets to such an extent that some analysts believe the United States will produce more oil than Saudi Arabia by 2020.

Coupled with rising prices and new drilling techniques, low interest rates have encouraged some companies to acquire more assets and helped other companies to get their hands on fresh cash to expand their exploration and production of oil and gas. And there is a lot more reason to expand than to sit still.

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A new report from energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimates that there are 1.4 trillion barrels of oil equivalent reserves in undeveloped oil and gas fields. About 1.1 trillion of these barrels are potentially economically recoverable and have total value of around $760 billion. In North America alone, the value of the economic barrels is $132 billion, and about 90% of those barrels are oil. In the Middle East, about 60% of the recoverable reserves are natural gas.

Last Friday we looked at seven energy companies that are expected to raise production in the coming months and look set to take advantage of anticipated pricing strength if not price hikes. Also on Friday we looked at several of the major integrated oil and gas companies with an eye toward a potential value opportunity.

If, as Mark Twain once said, whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting over, then oil might be for trading around. We have taken a look at five more companies today, all of which have made some big asset sales. Some were paying down debt, while others were repositioning or building a war chest. All have beefed up or will beef up returns to investors.

Occidental Petroleum Corp. (OXY) closed at $89.49 on Friday and has a market value of around $72 billion. The consensus price target from Thomson Reuters is around $104.20, and the 52-week range is $72.43 to $95.57. Occidental has dividend yield of 2.9%. The implied upside to the consensus target price is 16.4%, and note that the target is above the stock’s 52-week high.

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Occidental reportedly is seeking a buyer for its Middle East unit, which could bring the company as much as $8 billion. The company is the largest producer in the lower 48 states and has operations in Oman, Qatar, Iraq and Libya as well. The company also is considering a spin-off of its operations in California, which averaged oil equivalent production of 148,000 barrels a day in 2012, around a fifth of the company’s total.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) closed at $94.70 on Friday and has a market value of around $48 billion. The consensus price target is about $112.00, and the 52-week range is $65.82 to $96.75. Anadarko has dividend yield of 0.8%. The implied upside to the consensus target price is 18.3%, and we note again that the target is above the stock’s 52-week high.

Anadarko recently sold a 10% stake in a natural gas project in Mozambique to India’s national oil company for $2.64 billion, and it plans to use the proceeds to develop its U.S. assets.

Apache Corp. (APA) closed at $86.81 on Friday and has a market value near $34 billion. The consensus price target is around $100.40, and the 52-week range is $67.91 to $94.87. Apache has dividend yield of 0.9%. The implied upside to the consensus target price is 15.7%, and that target is above the stock’s 52-week high.

Apache’s big transaction has been the sale of a third of its Egyptian operations to China’s Sinopec for $3.1 billion in cash. The company is expected to use at least some of the proceeds to expand its stock buyback program, though goosing its anemic dividend probably would be more welcomed by investors.

Hess Corp. (HES) closed at $77.72 on Friday and has a market value of around $26 billion. The consensus price target is near $83.75, and the 52-week range is $48.20 to $78.34. Hess has dividend yield of 1.3%. The implied upside to the consensus target price is 7.7%, and here too the target is above the stock’s 52-week high.

Unlike its peers, Hess is not selling as much as it is closing. In January the company shuttered its remaining East Coast refinery and now has completed its transformation to an exploration and production company. The company also has put on the block its share of natural gas assets in Indonesia and Thailand that could yield about $1.5 billion. If a buyer is found, Hess will have shed about $3.5 billion in assets during 2013.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) closed at $26.67 on Friday. Its market value is around $17.4 billion. The consensus price target is around $24.75, and the 52-week range is $16.23 to $27.29. Chesapeake has dividend yield of 1.3%. The stock is fully valued at Friday’s closing price.

Chesapeake has been selling off assets for two years. So far this year, the company has shed about $3.7 billion in what it calls non-core assets as it works to bring its debt load down. And while it is common to consider Chesapeake as a natural gas company, 60% of its revenue came from liquids production in the second quarter.

Andarko looks good as a value play to us. According to MarketWatch, 25 of 32 analysts rate the stock as a Buy and none rates it below Hold. A second choice would be Occidental.

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