Two Companies Focusing on America

Two Companies Focusing on America

What company is divesting foreign assets and undergoing a restructuring program to increase growth? Occidental Petroleum , which is refocusing on America and using drilling techniques to cut costs.

Lower well costs
Domestic oil producers have been steadily reducing well completion costs, and Occidental is no different. In one year Occidental lowered its well completion costs by 19%, which was ahead of management's guidance for 15%. This is in stark contrast to Occidental's Africa/Middle East division, which is seeing rising costs.

Management has guided for domestic well completion costs to keep going lower due to continued efficiencies in its drilling techniques. One way Occidental plans on reducing costs further is by lowering maintenance times and workover costs.

Occidental is reducing its capital expenditure budget from $10.2 billion in 2012 to $9.6 billion in 2013, but still plans on completing the same number of wells. Part of Occidental's restructuring plan is to focus on domestic plays and reduce costs. Another part of it is divesting certain assets that have lower growth prospects.

Occidental is looking to sell a minority stake in its African/Middle East operations to reduce its exposure to the volatile region. It also plans on seeking "strategic alternatives" for some of its slow-growth Rocky Mountain assets in the US.

Some analysts see Occidental potentially spinning off its California unit for ~$22 billion, according to Credit Suisse. Occidental has also authorized the sale of part of its stake in Plains All American Pipeline for $1.3 billion.

Occidental is selling off assets so it can focus on the Permian Basin and California. In the Permian Basin Occidental is keeping its capex flat this year while in California and the Midcontinent Occidental is decreasing capex by $500 million and $400 million respectively.

As far as production growth in North America goes, management has guided for increased levels of growth in the second half of the year. They are also calling for domestic production to increase by 6,000-8,000 boe/d next quarter, with most of that growth coming from California and the Permian Basin.

Internationally speaking, when production from Qatar comes online growth will resume.

Synergy Resources is also focusing on growth in North America through its assets in Colorado and Nebraska.

Cash flow
In order to achieve growth beyond its cash flow, for the fiscal year 2014 Synergy plans on using cash on hand to boost growth.

For FY 2014 Synergy has a capex budget of $157.5 million, with $87.5 million of it being funded by operations (an estimate). The other $70 million is coming from cash on hand, which stands at $96.6 million currently. $30 million of its capex is going toward acquisitions so it has more land to drill on.

Growing faster than your operational cash flow can be a good thing, as long as you can keep your balance sheet in check.

Synergy plans on completing 37 net wells through the end of its fiscal year, which will significantly push up production growth. Higher levels of production will enable Synergy to use the additional cash flow to keep growing.

Synergy has 13.6 million barrels of proven oil equivalent in reserves, but management sees 185.7 million barrels of additional oil equivalent in potential reserves. As Synergy keeps drilling expect the amount of proven reserves to significantly increase. On top of that management's planned $30 million worth of acquisitions in FY 2014 will further increase its reserves.

Synergy sees 733 potential drilling locations on its acreage, which will last Synergy a long time. Synergy has ~173,000 acres in the liquid-rich areas of Colorado and Nebraska. It also owns 56,000 net acres of a dry gas play in Colorado.

While an additional 620 million cubic feet of additional gas processing is coming on-line within the next few years, natural gas shouldn't be Synergy's focus. Natural gas carries low to negative margins while liquid-rich plays see high double-digit margins. Liquids should be Synergy's focus, and it appears they are going that route.

Final thoughts
Occidental's plan to divest assets and focus on high-growth oil plays is a good strategy which will enable it to grow faster while carrying less risk.

Synergy is a smaller, lesser known E&P player that is seeing high double-digit production growth with plans to keep that growing for years.

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