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Bill Barrett (NYSE:BBG)

Q4 2012 Earnings Call

February 22, 2013 11:00 am ET

Executives

Jennifer C. Martin - Vice President of Investor Relations

R. Scot Woodall - Interim Chief Executive Officer, President and Chief Operating Officer

Robert W. Howard - Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Analysts

Ryan Oatman - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Ryan Todd - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Pearce W. Hammond - Simmons & Company International, Research Division

Jason A. Wangler - Wunderlich Securities Inc., Research Division

Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Jeffrey W. Robertson - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2012 Bill Barrett Corporation Earnings Conference Call. My name is Darcelle, and I will be your operator for today. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, Ms. Jennifer Martin, Vice President of Investor Relations. Please proceed.

Jennifer C. Martin

Thank you, Darcelle. Good morning, everybody, and thank you for joining us. Presenting today will be Chief Executive Officer, Scot Woodall; and Chief Financial Officer, Bob Howard.

A few quick notes before we get started. Our annual report on Form 10-K was filed a few minutes ago and either is or shortly will be available on our website under SEC Filings. Second, as usual, I need to remind everyone of the forward-looking and other cautionary statements provided in yesterday's earnings release.

In addition, during our discussion, we make reference to discretionary cash flow and adjusted net income, which are non-GAAP measures. Reconciliations to the appropriate GAAP measures may be found in the earnings release, which is posted on the homepage of our website. We also reference reserves and risked resources for which there is additional disclosure in yesterday's release.

Lastly, we will be participating in a couple of upcoming conferences. Bob Howard will be at the Simmons Conference next Friday, hosting one-on-ones and several of us will be in New Orleans for the Howard Weil Conference later in March. Scot Woodall will present at the Howard Weil Conference on March 18, and we hope to see many of you there.

With that, I'll turn it over to Scot.

R. Scot Woodall

Good morning, and thank you all for joining us. We released the majority of our year-end information on January 31, and the final financial statements yesterday.

Given that most of the information was provided a few weeks ago, and we have spoken with many of you in the interim, and I do not think there was any surprises in yesterday's material, I would like to use today's discussion to focus and our strategy and to look forward. Bob will recap the earnings report in his discussion, following mine.

We have spent the last 2 years transitioning this company to have a better commodity mix. We believe that a balanced commodity mix would better position our company to respond to changing commodity prices and create stability when making capital deployment decisions.

The end result would enable us to drive cash flow. This transition took time and capital. I believe the transition is complete. Our company now has 2 scalable oil development programs to complement our legacy development gas and NGL positions.

These development programs offer substantial growth through the development of nearly 3,000 gross oil locations and 1,000 natural gas locations. [indiscernible]

Our production is more balanced [indiscernible] NGLs. We exit [indiscernible] oil per day, representing 24% of our production.

As I review where the company is today, I believe we have accomplished our goal of building a better commodity balance in our portfolio. The company is well positioned to drive value.

So as I look forward to 2013 and beyond, the focus of the company is execution, and I am very comfortable that we have the resources and people to carry out that execution.

When this company exploited our gas assets, we demonstrated year-over-year improvements in EURs, capital costs and lease operating expenses. I expect the same results as we exploit these new oil assets.

I would like to provide a few highlights of our core oil programs. Let's start first with the DJ. In 2013, we will spend about 40% of our capital budget or about $200 million running a 2-rig program, to drill about 65 gross operated wells and participate in another 20 wells.

Our entire focus will be on the 40,000 acres in the Northeast Wattenberg area. One rig will continue pad drilling near our initial 3 pads, while the second rig will delineate our acreage position to the East.

As we provided in our most recent investor presentation, we are very encouraged by results to date on our first 3 4-well pads. These wells, on average, are following a 300,000-barrel EUR type curve after flowing the first 90 days. Our acreage position is in the midst of where our peers, who have been operating in the area longer than we have, are having positive results.

We are very encouraged by the results of these wells drilled both in and around our position, particularly in light of the geological and geophysical parameters that we are able to map through the area. Our delineation program in 2013 is designed to prove these concepts.

The approximately 1,100 locations in our inventory represent our early assessment of the acreage. It's comprised of 8 wells per section on a limited portion of the acreage and 4 wells per section on a portion of the remaining acreage.

All 1,100 locations are targeting the Niobrara B formation only. This location inventory is set to expand with continued delineation results. Additionally, this inventory could expand if we apply some of the same technology currently being demonstrated by our peers in regards to downspacing, extended laterals, Niobrara C or Codell test.

I know the investment community is anxious for more data on type curves, EURs and economics out here. But it is early, and we have more work to do.

Most of our Northeast Wattenberg position was acquired in a transaction this past summer. I think our team is doing a terrific job in the few short months that we've been operating out here.

Moving on to the Uinta Basin. In 2013, we will spend about 50% of our CapEx budget, or between $225 million and $250 million, running a 4-rig program to drill between 80 and 85 gross operated wells and participate in another 8 wells.

In the Uinta, we have established a repeatable development program. Our 2013 program is our vertical drilling program. As a reminder, there's about 3,000 feet of vertical pay in this stacked oil resource.

As we have increased the scale in Uinta, we have been able to drive down our drilling and completion cost. Preliminary results, 2012 versus 2011, indicate a year-over-year CapEx cost savings of more than $500,000 per well.

We have nearly 1,700 undrilled locations in the basin vertically on 160-acre spacing. We believe that on this spacing, we are only recovering between 6% and 8% of the original oil in place.

Early in 2013, we will be testing 2 80-acre downspacing pilots. Geologically, we are excited about the concept. The proof will be in the results.

However, one can easily see that, if successful, our undrilled location inventory in this spacing would significantly expand.

As a company, we entered 2013 with oil making up 24% of our total production. We envision increasing oil production by more than 50% in 2013. We also entered 2013 with nearly 3,000 undrilled locations in our oil plays. It should be clear why I believe that our transition is complete.

Before I turn the call over to Bob, let me make a couple of comments on the leadership change here. I have spoken directly with a number of you, but want to make a few points clear.

First, the board is going through the process of working with an outside firm to identify and consider both internal and external candidates for the CEO role. There is no time frame attached to this process.

Secondly and importantly, this management team has the full support of the board to execute the strategy we have outlined. All decisions regarding the business are being made timely and are being executed. The investment community should understand that the company, at all levels of the organization, are fully engaged and operating at a high-level of efficiency.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Bob.

Robert W. Howard

Okay. Thank you, Scot. Good morning, everyone.

We closed 2012 with good fourth quarter results. Detailed information about our results for the year is included in our earnings release and our Form 10-K. I'll review a few of the key highlights. Oil production for the quarter was approximately 9,300 barrels per day, which put us right on target of an 80% growth in oil production for the full year 2012.

During the quarter, realized oil prices averaged about $84 per barrel. Natural gas sales prices, including the benefit of NGLs, averaged $5.18 per Mcf.

Growth in oil production and good sales prices drove cash flow per share of $2.19 for the quarter and $8.51 for the full year 2012.

Adjusted earnings per share were $0.20 for the quarter and $0.15 for the full year. Both cash flow and earnings for the quarter exceeded Street consensus estimates.

At the end of the year, we closed on the sale of natural gas and coal bed methane assets in the Wind River and Powder River Basins and a portion of our Piceance gas program for approximately $325 million.

Proceeds from the sale were applied to pay off the balance on our bank line of credit to provide initial funding for 2013 development CapEx.

As we enter -- we entered 2013 well positioned with respect to liquidity and our balance sheet. As a reminder, our borrowing base under our credit facility was redetermined at year end, following the asset sale. The lenders took into consideration the asset sale, as well as year-end reserves.

The borrowing base under the facility was adjusted to $825 million, while total commitments remain at $900 million. We have 0 drawn on the credit facility, and after considering a letter of credit, we have $799 million available from the facility.

Scot just reviewed our 2013 capital program, and I'll reiterate our commitment to not increase our 2013 year-end debt balance from our 2012 year-end debt.

We intend to fund the difference between capital expenditures and cash flow from asset sales. After successfully building 2 core oil programs over the past 2 years, it is now a prudent business decision to monetize assets where we do not intend to invest capital in the coming years and redirect that capital to developing our core oil programs.

We're in the process of determining the expected market value of our noncore assets and the marketability of those assets. We plan to proceed with asset sales over the course of the year, and we not have any liquidity pressure, which will allow us to seek to optimize the value of the assets being sold.

Regarding our balance sheet, we most closely monitor the debt-to-EBITDAX ratio as a leverage metric.

At year end, this metric was 2.4x. However, adjusting for EBITDAX related to the asset sale, on a pro forma basis, the net debt to EBITDAX is 2.6x.

Our objective is to reduce that ratio to 2.5x or lower on a long-term basis.

Now move on to operating guidance. On a 2-stream basis to be consistent with 2012, 2013 production guidance was 83 to 87 Bcfe.

As we've previously announced, we'll then begin reporting production on a 3-stream basis, 2013 is estimated 86 to 90 Bcfe. We are targeting a 50% to 55% growth in oil, which puts oil at approximately 30% of total 3-stream production and we expect NGLs to account for about 6% to 8% of total 3-stream production.

Our NGL forecast does assume ethane rejection for the full year, which means the NGL basket will be made up of heavier liquids with ethane remaining in the gas stream.

Natural gas production for 2013 is estimated to decline by about 35% from 277 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2012, due to the sale of natural gas assets and reasonably steep decline curves in the Piceance and West Tavaputs for 2013. Both these gas areas are coming off peak production in mid-year 2012. As we come off flush production from recently completed wells, the gas decline rate will flatten in 2014 compared to 2013.

Lease operating expenses for 2013 are projected to be $62 million to $67 million, which reflects both the higher cost of our oil production, and fixed costs associated with natural gas production that will be spread over reduced industry [ph] production.

Gathering, transportation and processing costs are projected to be $72 million to $75 million, which reflects lower GTP costs related to oil production and a higher portion -- proportion of oil in the production mix.

General and administrative expenses before stock-based compensation are projected at $50 million to $54 million, which includes approximately $4 million for onetime charges associated with employee transition costs.

To wrap up the financial review, we are well hedged for 2013 with approximately 70% of total production hedged. Our WTI oil hedges average about $98 per barrel and our CIG natural gas hedges average about $3.70 per Mmbtu. We're fully [ph] about 78% higher on a Mcf basis. Complete hedge details are in yesterday's release.

Importantly, these hedges will support our cash flow and therefore, funding for our capital expenditure program.

And I'll turn the call back over to Jennifer to begin the question-and-answer session.

Jennifer C. Martin

Very good. Just go ahead start the Q&A. I can see that we have a few people in the queue.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Ryan Oatman with SunTrust.

Ryan Oatman - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

I just wanted to talk a little bit about the Powder River Basin Deep, we don't talk about this a ton here. Can you just update us on your acreage footprint up there and perhaps give us a feel for where the acreage values are currently? And then kind of in conjunction with that, is there a potential to monetize that asset to fund the gap this year?

R. Scot Woodall

Sure, Ryan. We have a net about 67,000 acres, and if you remember, we've done some drilling in 2012. We released the results of a Shannon test in Q1, a Sussex test, I think, later in the year. Now subsequent to that, we have drilled and completed 2 Frontier wells that we're in the process of completing right now. We have drilled and completed another Sussex well and we'll have handful of wells on this slate to be drilled and completed in 2013. Preliminarily, we like all of the results. Yes, this asset, along with the other assets in the company outside of the DJ and Uinta, are all being evaluated and being considered for a potential sale.

Ryan Oatman - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Okay, that's helpful. And then shifting back to the core areas, DJ Basin and Uinta. In the fourth quarter, you guys were able to grow that DJ Basin output about 1,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day with 1 rig. In the Uinta, it was about 1,500 barrels a day with 4 rigs. So on the surface, it would seem like that DJ is more capital-efficient. Can you just comment there on what you're seeing in terms of efficiency? And then also discuss what you would need to see from the DJ to further shift activity from 1, 2 rigs in the second quarter to 3 or 4 rigs moving forward.

R. Scot Woodall

Sure. You probably do make a good point, Ryan. We probably do think the DJ will end up being more capital-efficient than what the Uinta Basin will be. Some of that discrepancy that you just described in terms of the oil rate increases in the quarter could just be a subject to working interests. So that maybe something that we have to back out or reconsider. When we look to what we're trying to accomplish in the DJ in 2013, is really twofold. We're trying to repeat the results of those first 3 pads of results that we published out a few weeks ago. And so we will have 1 rig that is going to repeat those results and that should drive cash flow and should drive production growth. The other rig will be out delineating the acreage to the East. And as I kind of mentioned in my prepared remarks, there's a lot of tests that go on around us and we're able to take the information from those tests and those well logs and that geologic information and map it pretty consistently across our acreage. And so we're encouraged about, from a geologic perspective, that the acreage has a lot of prospectivity. What we need to do is go and actually do some drilling and put some tests in the ground and get some results, and that's really what the second rig is designed to do in 2013.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Ryan Todd.

Ryan Todd - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

If I can follow-up on the DJ Basin. If we look forward to the end of the year, given what the second rig will be doing there, I mean, where do you think you'll be in terms of acreage delineation, potential test of downspacing? I mean, 12 months from now, where are we going to be in the DJ Basin from an asset level?

R. Scot Woodall

What I would think is that we would have probably all of the acreage pretty well delineated at the end of 2013. In terms of downspacing, I'm not sure how much we're really going to testing those concepts. We are probably more focused on the Niobrara B and probably more focused on drilling plus or minus 4 wells per section in 2012, and really probably leaving the testing of other horizons and other downspacing probably to the other operators in the area. Our focus is just delineating the acreage for '13.

Ryan Todd - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Okay. And if I could shift over to the Uinta. I know we've talked about this a lot over the past -- over the past year or 2, but any updates you can give us in terms of conversations you're having on potential transportation agreements? There's a lot of increasing chatter amongst peers out there about rail capacity out of the basin. And if I think I'm correct, you guys have been railing some amount of oil production to Salt Lake City as a test. Any comments on that?

R. Scot Woodall

Well, we do rail some out of the basin. It's not going to Salt Lake City, it's going someplace else, and that's about 2,000 barrels a day. Probably no concrete update that I can provide to you today on future marketing arrangements, other than they continue to be ongoing. We are looking at rail. We're looking at a lot of different options. And when we have something to report, we will, but we will continue to work all angles of that, similar to the other operators in the basins.

Ryan Todd - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

And if you were able to rail to the West Coast, would you be willing to hazard a guess as to what you might be able to save on the differential?

R. Scot Woodall

Don't know that yet. That's still kind of what the debate is. Obviously, we see what oil prices are on the West Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico and they're a lot better than we get locally in the Salt Lake City area. And so it's all about transportation and handling and how you split up that differential.

Ryan Todd - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Okay. I guess, one last quick one. Given the trajectory of oil there in the fourth quarter, which is a great growth, but the exit was a little lower. Any -- would you be willing to tell us what the current oil production is?

R. Scot Woodall

I don't think we put out the current oil production right now. It is -- you're right, it is lower in some of the rates that we quoted in January versus Q4 for a variety of reasons. Some was the asset sale, where we actually sold a few hundred barrels in the asset sale, and then we had a pretty tough January in the Uinta Basin in terms of weather and our rates in January were a little hampered by that. So there's a couple of factors there. But I'd reiterate that we're still on track for our full year guidance as we model things out.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Pearce Hammond of Simmons and Company.

Pearce W. Hammond - Simmons & Company International, Research Division

At West Tavaputs, can you provide an update on the compressor fire and when you think you're going to get all of the production back up? You had mentioned that you've gotten the majority of it back up.

R. Scot Woodall

Sure, Pearce. Back in December, we restored 80% or 90% of that production, and then about mid-month in February, we restored the rest of it. So we have done the bypasses. We're able to put one of the compressors stations back online. There's still a little bit of de-bottlenecking we could do as we're routing gas around, but essentially, we have all the production back online as of mid-February.

Pearce W. Hammond - Simmons & Company International, Research Division

Great. And then sort of stand [ph] in West Tavaputs, or in general, in areas where you've suspended drilling. What did that decline profiles look like, essentially, the base declines in those areas?

R. Scot Woodall

As Bob quoted in his numbers there, probably year-on-year of '12 to '13, we're expecting something more in that 30% or 35% type of decline in the gas assets. You have to remember that we were still spending capital in both Piceance and West Tavaputs during the first half of '12, and so we're up on the early part of that hyperbolic decline. We would expect that decline rate to flatten out through time in subsequent years.

Pearce W. Hammond - Simmons & Company International, Research Division

Great. And then at what gas price do you think you would get active again there in West Tavaputs?

R. Scot Woodall

It's a 2-part question because I think it's not only gas price related, but it's also what the oil price is. Now the gas properties become more economically attractive at something probably 450-ish. However, if oil stays up here at $95, I think the oil property still win in terms of an internal rate of return. And then I would just remember, Pearce, that all of our acreage in Piceance and West Tavaputs is really HBP, so we're really sitting in a good position that we can sit and wait on commodity prices and the results of our oil properties.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Jason Wangler with Wunderlich Securities.

Jason A. Wangler - Wunderlich Securities Inc., Research Division

Just curious on the Niobrara pads. Could you give us an indication about when those were turned on? Was it the end of the fourth quarter, beginning of this year? Just trying to get a handle on when the timing was.

R. Scot Woodall

It was probably more towards the beginning of Q4. [indiscernible] I would say.

Jason A. Wangler - Wunderlich Securities Inc., Research Division

Okay. And then with the rigs still obviously going out and doing the pads, could you just kind of give an update what that first rig is -- how many wells it's been drilling since then or how many wells maybe you have in the backlog at this point that have been drilled?

R. Scot Woodall

It's probably a low number. What we also did in Q1 is we changed out our drilling rigs in a number of these oil basins both in Uinta and DJ. Some of the rigs that we were using in Uinta and DJ were left over from West Tavaputs and Piceance and they were more the skiddable fit-for-purpose pad rigs and carry a higher day rate. And so in Q1, we changed out a lot of those rigs. So we had a few rigs that we had no rigs running in the DJ, and so we don't have a huge backlog of inventory that's drilled there. But what I would say of the 80 or 85 wells, the 60 or 65 operating wells that we will drill in the DJ Basin, about 2/3 of those will be pad drilling and about 1/3 would be testing and delineating the new acreage positions.

Jason A. Wangler - Wunderlich Securities Inc., Research Division

Okay. And maybe just along that, one more, so you see kind of maybe those 2/3 pad, as far as the timing of bringing them online, is going to be a little bit more second half of this year, you really start seeing a lot more of the pads coming on?

R. Scot Woodall

Yes, that's probably a good guess.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Brian Singer with Goldman Sachs.

Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Wanted to just explore if you were considering longer laterals and testing longer laterals in your Northeast Wattenberg acreage consistent with what some of the other operators are testing, or whether it's too early because you're in more acreage delineation mode now?

R. Scot Woodall

It's probably a little early, and we're more in acreage delineation. There is an extended lateral that is within about 1.5 mile of our acreage, that the EURs quoted by the operator, that we probably agree with, look very encouraging. And that acreage position that I'm describing of ours in that Northeast Wattenberg area is very blocky and would lend itself to extended laterals, but is probably a more of a 2014 objective for us than a 2013 objective.

Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Okay. And then with the pads that you've drilled so far and then as you kind of drill in the next couple of quarters, how far east should we expect you to have tested? And then if you think about your 40,000-acre block in Northeast Wattenberg, heading towards the east, what percent do you have confidence in is going to be in commercial so far?

R. Scot Woodall

Well, the 1,100 locations that we booked in our risked resources at year end, they do not go all the way to the east, as you might guess. It probably only goes 2/3 toward the east. Part of our 2013 program will be designed to really put tests kind of in all corners of the acreage. So we will have a very good delineation by the end of 2013.

Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Great. And have you drilled wells 2/3 of the way out or is that just where you have enough confidence to add risked resource?

R. Scot Woodall

No, we have some tests that are out that far.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your next question comes from the line of Jeff Robertson with Barclays.

Jeffrey W. Robertson - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Can you talk about how long it might take to get results on the downspaced pads over in the Uinta Basin?

R. Scot Woodall

It's probably second half of the year thing, Jeff. We are in the process of drilling them. I think we've drilled a handful of them and I think we have started the completion of one. So it's going to be something that, you know us, that we'd like to have 30 or 60 days of production probably before we speak to it. So it is probably a second half event.

Jeffrey W. Robertson - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Are those wells being drilled and completed pretty much identically to what you've done on the 160-acre spaced locations?

R. Scot Woodall

Yes. For the most part, yes. And actually, Jeff, I'll elaborate a little bit. These are going to be 2 different types of tests. One of the 80-acre tests is going to be where there's already been 160-acre development, and so you have a mature well, if you will, and then you'll have an infill well. Then the other 80-acre pilot will be in a brand-new area where you're going to drill the entire area on 160-acre spacing, so there will not have been a previous parent well. So we're going to test 2 different concepts this year.

Jeffrey W. Robertson - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Okay. And then a question for Bob on the asset sales. On -- in terms of what you all deem non-core. right now, is it just -- I'm trying to think about the production impact. You all had about $40 million a day of production combined from the Powder and other in the fourth quarter. So would you -- I'm assuming that's considered non-core, but also, would you all consider additional pieces of the Piceance or any other -- or West Tavaputs as non-core as you think about sales?

Robert W. Howard

No, Jeff, as we're going through that process right now, it would be premature to try to speculate on which properties, but we kind of would look at any properties -- the oil properties where we're spending capital as being core. Everything else is properties that we would look at and include in the mix, but it's really too premature just to comment on specific properties as we continue our evaluation.

Operator

And your next question comes from the line of Jason Wrangler with Wunderlich Securities.

Jason A. Wangler - Wunderlich Securities Inc., Research Division

Just had one more, sorry. In the Niobrara, you had a couple of good results, I believe, last year, further up North outside of Wattenberg. Is there a plan -- is that a '14 event to maybe go back up there and try some more just because what you see in the Wattenberg? Or what's the planning there as far as getting the rig up there and going to work?

R. Scot Woodall

That's probably -- I haven't really thought about it in terms of '14, but it is not the first objective for '13, is probably the way to look at it. We really think that the future value of the company sits in delineating the 40,000 acres in the Northeast Wattenberg, and that's really our focus. You're right, we had some preliminary good results up there on the border between Colorado and Wyoming, but the acreage position there is much smaller than this Northeast Wattenberg. So trying to drive value we're really trying to exploit the 40,000 acres first and we'll see where the area at the Colorado-Wyoming border to follow-up, if that's a '14 thing or beyond.

Operator

And there are no further questions at this time.

Jennifer C. Martin

All right. Well, thank you, everyone, for joining us today.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes today's conference. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect. Have a great day.

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