Pay Attention to Apache's Earnings Beat

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If you share my interest in Native American history, you know that Apache generally refers to a group of powerful Southwestern tribes that challenged Mexican and U.S. troops for centuries. In many respects, though, today's Apache Corp. (NYS: APA) , the Houston-based independent oil company, is more akin to the cerebral Cherokee of the Southeast.

Why do I make that somewhat outlandish claim? Largely because I'm impressed by the company's attention to diversity in its geologic and geographic risk and to balance between crude oil and natural gas assets. Geographically, the company operates in roughly a half-dozen locations, including the U.S. -- the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Coast, the Permian Basin of southwest Texas and New Mexico (once Apache Indian country) -- western Canada, Egypt, the North Sea, and Argentina. On that basis, it's relatively immune to the geopolitical concerns that I fear could affect companies in venues like Iraq and Russia.

About a year ago, sensing attractive values in a variety of locations, Apache embarked on a shopping spree. It bought Gulf of Mexico shelf assets from Devon (NYS: DVN) , moved into the deepwater Gulf by acquiring Houston's Mariner Energy, and helped BP (NYS: BP) raise funds and unload assets in the Permian Basin, western Canada, and Egypt. More recently, it has announced the acquisition of North Sea assets from ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) . In Egypt, the company has kept 25 rigs busy drilling 57 wells with a more-than-passable 93% success rate.

Indeed, the company stood tall across the board during the quarter. As it told us late last week, its net income increased to $1 billion, or $2.50 per share, compared with $778.2 million, or $2.12 a share, in the year-earlier quarter. But back out one-time items and the per-share figure for the most recent quarter comes to $2.95 -- solidly beating the analysts' $2.82 consensus estimate. Revenues climbed by 43.7% to $4.33 billion. Given those results, Apache has chalked up an average of 40% revenue growth over five consecutive quarters and topped analysts' expectations the past three quarters.

Apache continues to be optimistic about Australia, where it is involved in several projects, including the Chevron-operated (NYS: CVX) Wheatstone LNG project. As Apache's president, Roger Plank, noted on the company's post-release call, "After years in the making, the improvement in Australian gas market fundamentals is upon us, with first sales of significantly higher priced gas hitting our coffers beginning this January and volumes rising throughout the coming decade."

From my perspective, given the disparity in commodities prices, it's a positive that Apache generates approximately 50% of its total production from oil and liquids, which translated to about 75% of the company's revenues. Further, its shares trade at only about five times its trailing-12-month operating cash flow. All in all -- and with crude prices on the rise -- there are lots of reasons to pay attention to this solid operator. Why not start by including it on your version of the Fool's My Watchlist?

At the time this article was published Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Chevron. The Motley Fool owns shares of Devon Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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