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PetroQuest Energy, Inc. (NYSE:PQ)

Q3 2008 Earnings Call Transcript

November 4, 2008, 9:30 am ET

Executives

Matt Quantz – Manager, Corporate Communications

Charlie Goodson – Chairman, CEO and President

Todd Zehnder – EVP, CFO and Treasurer

Analysts

Dave Kistler – Simmons & Company

Steve Berman – Pritchard Capital Partners

Ronny Eisemann – JP Morgan

Ron Mills – Johnson Rice

Rehan Rashid – FBR Capital Market

Chris Bray [ph] – Jefferies

Andrew Coleman – UBS

Operator

Good morning. My name is Laurie and I’ll be your conference operator. At this time, I’d like to welcome everyone to the PetroQuest Energy third quarter 2008 conference call. (Operator instructions)

I will now turn the call over to Mr. Quantz. Please go ahead sir.

Matt Quantz

Thank you Laurie. Good morning everyone. We would like to welcome you to our third quarter conference call webcast. Participating with me today on the call are Charles Goodson, Chairman, CEO, and President; Todd Zehnder, CFO; and Bond Clement Chief Accounting Officer.

As you’ve come to expect, we would like to make our Safe Harbor Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Statements made today regarding PetroQuest’s business which are not historical facts are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. For a discussion of such risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ from those contained in forward-looking statements, see Risk Factors in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2007.

With that, Charles will get us started with an overview of the quarter.

Charlie Goodson

Good morning. During the third quarter, we produced 8 billion cubic feet equivalent or 87.4 million cubic feet of gas equivalent per day. Approximately 44% of the production came from our long-life basins, which is up from 42% realized in the second quarter of 2008 and 28% for the third quarter of 2007. As a result of Hurricane Gustav and Ike, we estimate that we deferred an approximate 1.2 Bcf equivalent of third quarter production.

Oil and gas revenues were $77 million with product price utilizations averaging $113.79 per barrel of oil and $8.50 per million cubic feet of gas. Net income available to common shareholders was $17 million and net income per share was $0.32 for the quarter.

On October 2, 2008, we closed a $300 million bank credit facility. The new credit facility provides initial borrowing base of $150 million which represents a $55 million increase from our previous facility. Not only did we increase the borrowing base by 58%, but we also expanded our bank group from three to five banks and extended the maturity date from November 2009 to February 2012. The fact that we were able to accomplish this without modifying our financial covenants during a very challenging credit environment speaks volumes for our 2008 reserve growth and diversification strategy.

Let’s move on to operations. We completed our fourth operating Woodford horizontal well during the third quarter and recently completed two additional wells. Within this group, we had three wells that were significant to our Woodford program. First, our 20th well was our first well completed in what we define as the Eastern side of the trend. The 4,600 foot lateral well floated a maximum rate of approximately 4.1 million cubic feet and cost approximately $5.3 million to complete – the drilling complete.

Second, our 25th well, also in the Eastern area, was the first well drilled in our extended lateral power program. The well had a 7,057 foot lateral with 20 expected frac stages and expected to be completed during the fourth quarter. The success results of both of these well extends productivity of our acreage Eastward [ph] where we have a high ownership percentages in approximately 12,000 net acres.

Finally, our 27th well was recently completed in our Lake McAllister area. The 4,200 foot ladder well came online last week falling gross rate of approximately 12.5 million cubic feet equivalent per day and we’ve seen rates up to 14.7 million cubic feet equivalent per day which leaves little doubt to the productivity and the development of our Eastern portion of our trend.

In the Fayetteville shale, we participated in a drilling completion of 27 successful horizontal wells during the third quarter. Since the commencement of our program in late 2007, we have drilled and completed 111 wells while achieving a 100% success rate. The initial production rates from these wells have averaged approximately 1.7 million cubic feet per day and have cost approximately $2.7 million in drilling complete. As we sit here today, we are currently filling an excess of 6 million cubic feet per day of Fayetteville gas.

Moving on the East Texas, we recently completed our third horizontal well in a weekly prospect targeting oil in the Buda objective. The well’s achieved flow rate as high as 400 barrels of oil per day with associated gas and continues to clean up.

The drilling continues in our Palmer prospect where we completed our fifth well during the third quarter. The well’s initial production rate was approximately 3 million cubic feet per day. In addition, our sixth well has reached total depth and logged approximately 55 feet of net pay. We expect to complete the well in approximately two weeks.

Moving on to the Gulf Coast, our Bluffs Prospect has reached total depth and logged approximately 85 feet of net pay, a well we brought in line in a couple of days and we have an approximate 39% net revenue interest in this well.

Our Highlands Prospect has drilled total depth and has been determined to be non-productive. We had a 55% working interest in that project.

At this time, I will turn it over to Todd to go over our financial results.

Todd Zehnder

Thank you, Charlie. During the quarter, our LOE per Mcfe was $1.46, which was above the range of our third quarter guidance. The higher LOE rate is the result of the increased costs that were incurred as a result of the hurricanes and the deferral of approximately 1.2 Bcfe of production due to these storms. We have increased our LOE guidance in the fourth quarter as a result of the high cost of continued repairs and some expensive workovers that we expect to have during the fourth quarter.

During the third quarter, we recorded a full cost ceiling impairment of $19.4 million or approximately $12 million net of taxes. The primary cost for this charge was differential between the Henry Hub and Centerpoint index points for our Oklahoma gas which had a large variance at September 30, 2008. As a result, our Oklahoma proved reserves were valued at an average price of $3.73.

Due to the impact of this low pricing, we experienced some downward revisions to a portion of our reserves in Oklahoma which translated to our ceilings as writedown. None of these impacts was performance related and in fact performance in this trend has continued to improve.

DD&A on oil and gas properties in the third quarter was $4.16 per Mcfe, which is up compared to the comparable period of 2007 and up from the second quarter of 2008. This increase is primary due to the negative impact that is occurring [ph] in natural gas had on our proved reserves as of September 30, 2008.

During the quarter, we spent approximately $112 million in capital expenditures. The breakout of this capital is approximately $87 million of direct CapEx, $20 million of G&G property and lease acquisition costs, and $5 million of capitalized overhead and interest. 69% of our total CapEx in the third quarter was spent in our long-life basins.

As previously mentioned in our third quarter operations update, we will scale back our drilling and leasing efforts in the Woodford and we’re deferring several East Texas and Gulf Coast basin projects in 2009. With these revisions on our capital expenditure budget, we are confident that we will able to fund our future capital expenditures through cash flow and availability on our credit facility. We expect our 2008 capital expenditures excluding acquisitions and capitalized interest and overhead to range from approximately $250 million to $260 million.

As Charlie previously mentioned, we recently closed on a $300 million credit facility. Our borrowing base was increased to $150 million as of October 2, 2008 and we have $50 million outstanding as of September 30. At that day, we had approximately $6.5 million of cash.

Our current plan has called for producing between $97 million and $102 million equivalent per day net to the company for the fourth quarter of 2008. When you consider our fourth quarter guidance and deferred production from the hurricanes, we would still achieve double-digit production growth in a year of transition to our longer-life basins.

Moving on to our hedges, we have approximately 4.4 Bcfe of our remaining 2008 production hedge at an average floor of $9.01 and ceiling of $11.71. We currently have approximately 11.8 Bcfe of our 2009 production hedge at a floor price of $9.40 and ceiling price of $12.37 on an equivalent basis. Our hedges are currently executed through members of our bank groups who are financially-sound institutions. Therefore, it is our belief that our hedging program is not exposed to any significant counter pricing at this time. We will continue to look for opportunistic times to add to our hedging portfolio to further strengthen our liquidity position.

With that, I’ll turn it back over to Charlie.

Charlie Goodson

During the third quarter of 2008, our company was faced with two significant challenges. First, we had back-to-back major hurricanes that temporarily shut in the majority of our Gulf Coast production. Our Gulf Coast chain worked tirelessly to restore our production and today we have – we resumed 95% of our pre-storm volumes.

Next, the deteriorating commodity price environment coupled with the timing of the credit markets presented our financial group with a difficult setting to secure a new $300 million credit facility. In both cases, we were able to overcome these challenges due to the balanced portfolio of assets and accounting team. We are excited about the remainder of the fourth quarter and the days ahead of us. And even though we’re in a very challenging period, we have the liquidity and inventory in promising projects in all three bases to realize our company’s goals, and we’ll stay focused on executing our business plan.

With that, we will turn it over for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Dave Kistler of Simmons & Company.

Dave Kistler – Simmons & Company

Good morning, guys.

Charlie Goodson

Good morning.

Todd Zehnder

Good morning.

Dave Kistler – Simmons & Company

Hey, real quickly, Charlie, last quarter, you’d mentioned about a 40% likely increase in reserves in this quarter, and that’s looking towards the end of this year. This quarter, you’re tempering that a little bit. I’m assuming that that is related to pricing-related reserve revisions, but I just want to get some more color on that if possible.

Charlie Goodson

Absolutely. I mean, I don’t think anybody right now has total clarity on what – where these prices are going to go the rest of this year. And so, we’re trying to be what I consider conservative on our outlook for the rest of the year. And basically, the bottom line is it’s obviously not performance when you see how things are improving in the Woodford and we have continued that good results everywhere else. It’s simply a pricing issue.

Dave Kistler – Simmons & Company

Okay. And then thinking about that a little bit and clearly, the issues really around the basis contraction that was taking place up in the Woodford – excuse me, in the Fayetteville, can you talk about what you guys are thinking about doing from a hedging perspective going forward to ensure that that doesn’t happen, or are you locked in based on your relationship as a non-operator?

Todd Zehnder

From the Fayetteville standpoint, we are pretty much locked in as a non-operator right now. We’re going to evaluate that. We’ve taken steps in the Woodford days to lock in our bases through firm transportation deals that are tied to the Henry Hub. The impact that we’re seeing on our reserve bases is a little contradictory to what we’re seeing real time, and we have our pricing at Henry Hub base with a differential based on that.

However, you can’t price your entire company's reserves throughout the rest of its life on that pricing. That contract only goes five years. So basically, even though day-to-day we’re operationally cash flowing, our majority of our Woodford gas has very good realization still, you have to take the reserve right off as a result of what could happen down the road.

Now, when it comes to the Fayetteville right now, we are relying on our third-party operators from the standpoint of the gathering. As we continue to build scale in those areas, it may become a deal where we end up start taking decline and start having our own transportation arrangements and bases arrangements. However, we found it to be beneficial and just let the operator do it right now.

Dave Kistler – Simmons & Company

Great, that color’s very helpful. Last question from me, I’ll let somebody else step on, but your third weekly well putting up about 400 barrels a day. A little bit higher than I think what base expectations a day in a 250-type level. It’s similar to the one you reported last quarter. Is this one still cleaning up and can those rates go higher? Can you give us color on with three wells now, what declines you are looking like, where you guys are on average production out of there? It just seems like data points are pretty strong there.

Charlie Goodson

I mean, I’ll touch on the first part of it and let Todd jump in, but as far as – yes, I think surely in the Lafayette well, and you put a lot of water down that well and the completion, the drillings phase of that well and so it is continuing to clean up. I mean, at 400 barrels a day, it certainly is on the high side of our expectations also, and so we’re very pleased with it in the trend.

Todd Zehnder

On the field itself right now, I know over the weekend, it was making between 700 and 800 barrels a day with some probably about 1 million a day of associated gas that comes along with it, Dave. So, I think that declines are just hanging in there where we are hoping for.

Dave Kistler – Simmons & Company

Great. Well, I thank you guys very much for all the clarifications.

Charlie Goodson

Okay.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Steve Berman of Pritchard Capital Partners.

Steve Berman – Pritchard Capital Partners

Hey, guys. Just a follow-up to that last question. What’s your joint complete quest experience been with the Buda Wells?

Todd Zehnder

They’ve been a little bit higher than we were originally thinking, Steve. They’re probably, on average, had been somewhere in the gross base of $6 million to $7 million to drill and complete.

Steve Berman – Pritchard Capital Partners

What’s causing that to be higher, and can you bring those down?

Todd Zehnder

I think part of the reasoning was it’s just you have a couple of hard sections or difficult sections above the Buda to get through that we found. Once we’ve gotten horizontally, I think the team has done a really good job, but we’ve run into some pressured zones above the Buda formation primarily being the Woodbine that caused a lot of our law circulation issues. So I think yes, they will be able to drive these costs down; and especially, we drilled two of those wells in what we probably consider is going to bend the peak in service costs here for a little while being the second and third quarter, and just a general service cost pressure on pricing will probably occur that will also assist in that.

Steve Berman – Pritchard Capital Partners

And then the same cost question on this really nice number 27 well in the Woodford. Any guidance or cost numbers there? I know it’s not done yet but –

Todd Zehnder

Yes, $5.4 million is what we have as the estimate right now. Obviously, the completion costs are a little bit of a field estimate, but that’s what it looks like it’s going to come in as.

Steve Berman – Pritchard Capital Partners

Right. And how about a 2009 CapEx number? Any thoughts there?

Todd Zehnder

I’d tell you that we’re growing production next year and we’re going to stay within cash flow that that production generates. I think it’s the beauty of having the Gulf Coast and having a lot of projects that are almost in inventory right now that are awaiting to come on. We will be growing production and at this point, we’re just going to see what commodity prices are. We have about 11 Bcf of next year already hedged, and we’ll continue to look at other areas to layer on more hedges; but the one thing we’re not going to do is get outside of cash flow next year, and we’re fortunate to have a very strong production profile for what for what unfortunately has been the size of the company we are now on a market cap basis.

Steve Berman – Pritchard Capital Partners

Okay, thanks.

Charlie Goodson

Okay, Steve. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Ronny Eisemann of JP Morgan.

Ronny Eisemann – JP Morgan

Good morning, everyone.

Charlie Goodson

Good morning.

Ronny Eisemann – JP Morgan

I just have a couple of questions. With the 27th well in the Woodford, Charlie, was there anything done specifically different with that well in terms of drilling and completing it?

Charlie Goodson

No.

Ronny Eisemann – JP Morgan

Okay. And then the differentials that you’re experiencing in the basin, is there an expectation of it returning to, back to, I guess, or narrowing back to where it was previously in the near-term?

Todd Zehnder

There is definitely the expectation that it will come back. There are several factors that are going in to why the Centerpoint base is so wide. Take away capacity as a major one and there’s – obviously, we’re not the only one being impacted by this, but the Boardwalk line is clearly going to be a big step for that. Just as important is just the mild, mild weather that they’re having in that area right now has the bases severely blown out. So, yes, we would expect to come back. Is it going to be Henry Hub West 80 at the end of the year? We’re not sure; and that’s why we’ve taken somewhat of a conservative approach and had a major prior – or guiding what is considered to be a major pricing revision this year because if the prices don’t come back, we do have to key those reserves off the book. However, as soon as the prices do come back and normalize over time, those will be what we would consider free reserve at.

Ronny Eisemann – JP Morgan

Okay. And then with your fourth quarter production guidance, how much had they been as deferred production from the hurricane impact?

Todd Zehnder

We’ve got probably about somewhere between 0.06 and 0.08 being – that what we’re thinking, and we had – we’ve got $5 million a day that’s still shut in from storms of which I think about half of that should be coming on within the next 30 days. Another significant piece was one of our fields were done for 19 days which made up about $10 million net loss due to a downstream line being paired. Get it come back on. The total biofield [ph] couldn’t flow for 19 days due to a pegging [ph] operation that was completed and a total value was brought back on line yesterday. I’ll say roughly 0.6 to 0.7 days.

Ronny Eisemann – JP Morgan

Okay, thank you guys. I appreciate it.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Ron Mills of Johnson Rice.

Charlie Goodson

Good morning Ron.

Ron Mills – Johnson Rice

Good morning. Just go back to the firm transport contract you have. Is that what you signed when you sold the midstream assets earlier this year?

Todd Zehnder

No, no. You relate it Ron. This is a utility that we have a contract with up in the Midwest that we’ve had in placed for, I guess almost a year now, that we re-termed up and added more capacity on effective November 1.

Ron Mills – Johnson Rice

Okay. And so you have four years remaining on that contract?

Todd Zehnder

We re-opted to five years starting November ’08.

Ron Mills – Johnson Rice

Does that cover most of your Arkoma production which is why you were minimally impacted or you suggest that you frac minimally impacted by the –

Todd Zehnder

Most of all, the majority of our Woodford production is covered under that agreement. The coal bed production is not and some of the outside operated or outer areas of the Woodford are not covered by it. So you do have some Woodford impact as a result of these pricing deals.

Ron Mills – Johnson Rice

Okay. And to go back to your – the number 27 well in the Woodford is completion techniques with the same route, did you all just encounter more natural fracturing or is it just a little bit better processing or firm. Any stats like that that you think went to the better production?

Todd Zehnder

I think most likely, what you’re saying is probably more natural fractured area, and you’re saying a result of that. I would say that over the last 10 wells, our completion techniques have change a little bit from the standpoint that we are just frac with more rock. And I think we probably touched on that in the second quarter call. And so with 27 frac any different than 24 or 23 probably not, but I would say that since we’ve learned that just spacing your frac tighter together and just pumping a bigger job overall has been very effective. But as far as the intricate details, the 27 or why it’s going too much higher, I think that resulted – it takes statistical basin and we’re going to have some wells like this. Unfortunately, we get question more on the one that come on $2.5 million a day than the $12.5 million today. But statistically, we’re driving the rate over time, and I feel like we’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to get more out of these wells than less.

Ron Mills – Johnson Rice

Okay. And as you all were in the current CapEx environment is the plan just to keep to attractive in the Woodford which is I think where you are currently.

Charlie Goodson

Yes, we are. I think it is – with the longer these prices stay down line – either prices has got to go back up or service cost has gotten modern a little bit. And we’re looking at – because it’s not necessary to keep things growing up. If we could agree thing – switch on the rig out and bring a cheaper rig in we’re looking at all those things. And so, I think our goal is to keep necessary rig running out there but same point in time make sure that we take advantage of any price softening.

Ron Mills – Johnson Rice

Okay. And then in the Gulf Coast, it sounds like your doing some workovers. I’m sure you have a lot of workover opportunities which help with managing production through this time period here. Is that expected to continue in the fourth quarter and maybe even in early 2009 just to some of the lower risk, lower cost workovers to have some production impact?

Todd Zehnder

Absolutely. But it’s also – a lot of that is driven by when reservoirs become ready to be re-completed uphold or need a workover. But in general, we are fortunate and that we have this re-completion that keeps our production high. That’s the beauty of the Gulf Coast. And we’re going to be able to keep our production at a high level with moderate opportunities and re-completion opportunities.

Charlie Goodson

We haven’t changed our strategy at all. We’re going to continue doing exactly what we’ve done in the past. We’ve got a large inventory in all these areas and I’ve been – I think that we all are mindful of the equity markets aren’t re-open right now, the bond markets aren’t re-open and you certainly got in mind for your credit facilities and so we are fortunate to have not only the drilling side but the workover side to increase that production and keep it growing. So, I just don’t want you thinking that we’re going to go into a harvest mode or something like that. We’re not. We’ve had a lot of projects to drill.

Ron Mills – Johnson Rice

Okay. All right guys, let me just listen who’s on. Thanks.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Rehan Rashid of FBR Capital Market.

Rehan Rashid – FBR Capital Market

Good morning guys.

Charlie Goodson

Good morning Rehan.

Rehan Rashid – FBR Capital Market

On the Woodford, any observations to pass along as far as the decline rates are concern on the Woodford? And also from a technical standpoint, please remind me of where are we on that super extended reach lateral that we were thinking about?

Todd Zehnder

I think decline rates are probably as good or better than what we originally expecting. We’re a little bit hampered by some production curtailments up in our primary area which we call our late McAllister area. The results have just exceeded what we were able to build out, and you’ll remember, we sold the pipeline systems and – to Mark West [ph] who is working feverishly to expand. And we think within a couple of weeks, we’re going to be able to bring that back on.

As a result, what happens is that when we bring on the well that makes $10 million or $12 million a day or $14 million a day, it knocked off quite a bit of other production. So, our decline curves on scale appear better than we originally is expecting. We’ll know more here in the next couple of weeks I guess for a long term basis. On the extended lateral, we are waiting on the third-party gather that we are using over in our eastern extension to finish the pipeline systems. And we’re expecting that probably to be done within – definitely this quarter. I would say, maybe the beginning of December is what we’re expecting is have their line. At that point, we will be ready to frac the well in tight end. It makes no sense for us to frac it until the pipeline is ready.

Rehan Rashid – FBR Capital Market

Got it. But you drilled already though?

Todd Zehnder

Oh yes. It is drilled okay and we have 7,057 seed of horizontal Woodford shale.

Rehan Rashid – FBR Capital Market

Okay, okay. And the frac design on this one will be how many fracs?

Todd Zehnder

We’re expecting 20 stages right now.

Rehan Rashid – FBR Capital Market

20 stages? And mechanical speaking again it should be no problem?

Todd Zehnder

That, yes, we’re not expecting any problems.

Rehan Rashid – FBR Capital Market

Okay, thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Chris Bray [ph] of Jefferies.

Chris Bray – Jefferies

Good morning guys.

Charlie Goodson

Good morning.

Chris Bray – Jefferies

Just in regards to your Gulf Coast program, what are the timing – what’s your sense for the rest of this year, and your expectations for 2009?

Todd Zehnder

We have one rig currently drilling in ships shore right now which is probably going to be our last spud of the year. We have an outside operated well that we call Royal Oaks who’s drilling also. Outside of that, the program will be re-initiated in 2009 and we had to really lay it out the exact wells for next year, but I can imagine that we’ll be drilling somewhere, plus or minus 5 to 10 wells next year in the Gulf Coast.

Chris Bray – Jefferies

Okay, okay. And your East Texas production, you guys provide a breakout number for the third quarter?

Todd Zehnder

Yes, it’s about $15 million I think. A $14 million was for the third quarter. I think we’re currently producing about $15 million.

Chris Bray – Jefferies

Okay. Okay. That’s all I have. Thank you.

Todd Zehnder

Thanks.

Operator

(Operator instructions) Your next question comes from the line of Andrew Coleman of UBS.

Andrew Coleman – UBS

Good morning folks.

Todd Zehnder

Good morning.

Andrew Coleman – UBS

I got a couple of questions, I just want to make sure I understand how the cost pool work on the –of the ceiling test? By that, I’ve seen everything in the mid-continent is all the same cost pool. Let’s say at the hard chart in the Woodford (inaudible) together.

Todd Zehnder

Yes. Actually, everything – we treat the entire domestic US is one cost pool, so our whole company is one pool.

Andrew Coleman – UBS

Okay. All right, I’m so also guessing that the write down is small enough, so it’s like at about 2% of your net PP&E that you really need. That’s why we’re going to expect to see any reduction and DD&A for the fourth quarter as a result of having a small write down?

Charlie Goodson

Right. That’s the reason you don’t see a drastic drop-off, but you can see that we have guided lower than where we came in for the quarter.

Andrew Coleman – UBS

Okay, okay. But – and then, I guess, moving on. Have you guys had any update on how the negotiations with Chevron are going on in the Southeast Carthage?

Charlie Goodson

We haven’t had any change.

Andrew Coleman – UBS

Okay. Well, thank you. Appreciate your time.

Todd Zehnder

All right, Andrew.

Operator

At this time, there are no further questions. I would now like to return the call to management for any closing remark.

Todd Zehnder

Well, we’d like to thank you guys for participating and look forward to seeing you guys on the road.

Charlie Goodson

Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you. That concludes today’s PetroQuest Energy third quarter 2008 conference call. You may now disconnect.

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