ZaZa Energy's CEO Discusses Q4 2013 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: ZaZa Energy (ZAZA)

ZaZa Energy Corporation (NASDAQ:ZAZA)

Q4 2013 Earnings Conference Call

April 1, 2014 10:00 AM ET


Todd Brooks - President and CEO

Ian Fay - CFO

Jay Morakis - IR


Robert Kecseg - Las Colinas Capital Management


Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Year-end 2013 ZaZa Energy Earnings Conference Call. My name is Glenn I’ll be your operator for today. At this time all participants are in listen-only mode. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this call is being recorded for replay purposes.

I’d now like to turn the call over to Mr. Jay Morakis. Please proceed.

Jay Morakis

Thank you, and thank you all for joining us today. Today’s call is being webcast on our website and can be accessed in the Investor Relations section. With me this morning are Todd Brooks, President and Chief Executive Officer; Ian Fay, Chief Financial Officer; and Kevin Schepel, Executive Vice President of Exploration & Production.

Before we begin, I’d like to remind everyone that statements made on today’s call and webcast may contain forward-looking statements as defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as anticipates, intends, plans, seeks, believes, estimates, expects, forecasts, and similar references to future periods.

Any statements made are subject to a number of assumptions, risks, and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the Company’s control and which may cause actual results to differ materially from those implied or expressed by those statements. Risk factors -- for a list of risk factors, please refer to our 2013 Form 10-K filed with the SEC.

At this time, I’d like to turn the call over to ZaZa’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Todd Brooks. Todd?

Todd Brooks

Thanks, Jay. Good morning and thank you for joining us on ZaZa Energy’s Fourth Quarter and Year End 2013 Earnings and Operational Update Call. Joining me today are Ian Fay, our Chief Financial Officer; and Kevin Schepel, our EVP of Exploration and Production.

I’ll start with commentary on our 2013 results, and I’ll then follow that with a discussion of progress in both of our current joint ventures. I will then turn the call over to Ian, and he will talk about our financials. Kevin is here to answer any technical questions during the Q&A.

The fourth quarter closed out what was a year of transition and achievement for our Company. While 2012 was about ZaZa’s exit from its joint ventures with the Hess Corporation, 2013 was about our entry into two new joint ventures in East Texas and South Texas. This transition, or actually transformation, required that ZaZa divest non-core assets, pay down debt, and consummate two new exploration and development agreements, all during just this past year, 2013. It required focus, dedication, long hours, timely execution, and constant thinking under pressure.

Let me tell you something, our team has delivered, and I’ve never seen an organization respond to adversity as positively as this one has. Because of our responsiveness and execution, we’re now moving forward with two joint ventures that are already beginning to bear fruit. Both of these new joint ventures were made possible by ZaZa’s first mover, proof-of-concept business model.

After our technical team identified the two prospect areas that we now have JVs on as highly prospective, ZaZa acquired large contiguous tracts of acreage. We then moved forward with proving up our technical thesis with a series of proof of concept wells that we drilled and operated on a 100% basis. The results of our proof of concept wells were then used to market both areas to prospective JV partners, and we were successful in both cases.

In each JV, ZaZa retained a 25% working interest and received multi-well drilling commitments from each new partner along with substantive drilling and CapEx carries. Now, both of our joint ventures are moving forward as planned with rigs running and new production and wells coming online. This forward movement is occurring in both our South Texas Eagle Ford area on the Dewitt/Lavaca county border, and in the Eagle Ford East/Lower Cretaceous plays in Walker and Southern Madison Counties.

While our focus in East Texas has been on testing and appraising multiple zones with various completion techniques, our focus in South Texas has been on the lower Eagle Ford. Also present on our South Texas acreage is an Upper Eagle Ford Bench, which may provide further future upside as nearby operators are having recent success developing both the Upper and Lower benches.

As our JV work advances, wells are gradually now being brought online, which is starting to move the production figures for ZaZa. Our exit rate for September of 2013 was 314 BOE per day. Our exit rate in December was 449 BOE per day, and our exit rate in March of this year is estimated to be more than 650 BOE per day with a peak production number of 750 BOE per day a couple of weeks ago.

In our South Texas JV in the fourth quarter of 2013 and then into the first quarter of 2014, ZaZa Sabine drilled two horizontal Eagle Ford wells, the Langley and the Machicek. The Langley was a 30-stage well with a 5,900 foot lateral and the Machicek was a 23-stage well with a 4,600 foot lateral.

The wells are just beginning to clean up now with surface lines and facilities being installed. We are engaging in a gradual flow back as we prepare to go to full sales. The wells together are flowing about 500 barrels of oil per day and 5 million cubic feet of gas per day on 14 size chokes, and each has approximately 4,000 pounds of casing pressure. Net to ZaZa this equates to about 220 BOE per day.

We are flaring gas and selling oil, and at this time I can confidently say that we have two very good new wells. This bodes extremely well for our Sweet Home joint venture. This is an 8,200 acre JV and if this acreage is developed on 100 acre spacing, we expect to have 82 total locations.

Our type curves for this area indicate 500,000 barrel per well EURs. As a reminder this acreage is adjacent to and surrounded by the Devon/GeoSouthern acreage acquisition announced late last year. If anyone would like to better orient themselves to the location of this acreage, please see our investor presentation that we’ve posted online.

The larger of our two joint ventures is focused on Walker and Southern Madison Counties in East Texas where the JV has now grown to more than 130,000 net acres. The structure of the East Texas JV allowed our partner to evaluate the acreage in phases with staggered rights to elect into the acreage gradually based on the results of appraisal drilling.

Our partner has now completed its acreage elections, exercising all of its options to participate in all of our acreage, approximately one-year ahead of the schedule provided for in the initial joint exploration documents. We have now drilled four appraisal wells on the property consisting of three vertical product confirmation wells in various locations around the block and one horizontal Eaglebine well.

This program has identified multiple zones of productive oil and gas, some of which are suitable for horizontal development and others vertical commingled development. We have multiple potential standalone horizontal development targets throughout the block with some variability among the targets on different parts of the block.

That’s a lot of info. Let me repeat that. We have multiple potential standalone horizontal development targets throughout the block, with some variability among the targets on different parts of the block. The next phase of our program consists of two horizontal appraisal wells on opposite ends of the block. The first of these wells is drilling ahead, and the next is scheduled to spud in the second quarter.

Pursuant to the recently announced Phase III election, the seventh commitment well will be spud prior to July 1, 2014. While it takes time to gain a prudent understanding of all of this stacked pay, ZaZa is extremely encouraged by the test data we’re getting from the field and by the production and reserve potential on our block.

Collectively the goal of these wells has been to better understand isolated reservoir characteristics and to test different completion techniques in varying zones and locations around the block. As the JV moves forward we expect to transition from appraisal to early development.

Activity in the area around our East Texas JV has also increased over the last year. In Walker, Madison and Grimes counties, the rig count increased by 45% between the end of 2012 and the end of 2013. We are also seeing substantial A&D increases in the surrounding area. Based on transactions we’re aware of, 2013’s activity in our area totaled about $800 million, which far surpassed 2012’s activity of less than $200 million.

In just the first quarter of 2014, we’ve already seen more than $500 million of A&D activity. To me this reflects the industry’s positive response to the derisking of multiple plays in the region.

Regarding new ventures, if and when it is prudent to expand our asset base, I think it’s safe to say that East Texas has considerable running room. ZaZa’s technical team has been analyzing prospects in the East Texas region for more than three years. While our early mover and exploration track record speaks for itself in the Eagle Ford and Eaglebine, during 2013 our exploration team began laying the foundation for our next wave of prospects in a 24-county area in East Texas. We will remain focused in 2014 on the Eaglebine and Lower Cretaceous plays.

To summarize our principal commercial transactions for 2013, two separate Moulton Acreage sales consummated in April and July of last year. These two closings resulted in $38.1 million of net cash. From the first quarter of 2013 through the second quarter of 2014, we received consideration of approximately $94 million of our East -- from our East Texas joint venture.

The $94 million is made up of approximately $34 million in cash, $17 million of PDP interest from existing wells that our partner acquired from third-parties, $19 million in acreage interests, and a $24 million carry. Of this $24 million, the Company still had $15 million left as of this month, and we’re drilling ahead as I speak.

During September of 2013, ZaZa entered into a joint venture with Sabine for approximately $7 million of carry for two wells and miscellaneous leasing and pipeline construction costs. The two carried wells have already been drilled and completed and are beginning cleanup and flow back as I mentioned earlier.

The year was also significant in terms of debt pay down, which Ian will discuss in more detail momentarily. In short, we’ve now paid down the senior secured note holders from $100 million to $15 million.

With that said, I will now turn the call over to Ian to say a few words about our financial performance and balance sheet. Ian, the floor is yours.

Ian Fay

Thank you, Todd, and good morning, everyone. Yesterday, we issued our results release after the close and filed our Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013. There is a good deal of new financial and operational information and detail in our filing, and as such on this call I will keep my comments high-level and discuss the more pertinent updates.

I will cover our results for the comparable year-over-year period and spend more time addressing our balance sheet and improving capital structure. Then we will open up the call for questions.

In 2013, we reported oil and gas revenues of $8.9 million versus $9.6 million in 2012. The slight decline is primarily related to the sale of some of our non-core assets offset by increased production from our East Texas operations. Looking ahead, we expect to have substantially higher operating results from our joint ventures, which I will cover in just a moment.

Operating costs for 2013 were $115.3 million versus $130.9 million last year. Within this, we had non-cash impairment charges of $104.6 million in 2013 versus $9.8 million in 2012. Additionally, lease operating expenses declined by $1.5 million, exploration expenses declined by $12.9 million and depreciation, depletion, and amortization was $3 million lower as well.

As I noted, on our third quarter conference call, we also had a gain on asset divestitures accounted for in the fourth quarter of 2013 of $24.4 million versus no gain in 2012. Throughout 2013 we instituted aggressive cost control measures to more effectively manage our cash resources and to streamline our business. As a result, our general and administrative expenses declined by $68.5 million.

The year-over-year decrease was due to lower cost in 2013 for severance, stock-based compensation, and the taxes paid for this, lower professional consulting fees, and a decline in expenses associated with Toreador. All of these totaled $34.6 million. I’ll add that in 2013 costs were also lower due to an approximately two-thirds reduction in our headcount.

A few other points to cover related to our income statement. First, in 2013 we recorded a $16.6 million loss on the extinguishment of debt. This relates to an amendment to the senior secured notes in March of 2013 that triggered debt extinguishment accounting. It resulted in a loss from the modification of the terms of the warrants of $10.9 million and a difference between the fair value and book value of debt of $4.2 million. The remaining $1.5 million is associated with penalties on the prepayment of principal.

In 2012, we recorded a loss in the extinguishment of debt of $28 million, which consisted of $5.2 million of penalties on the prepayment of principal and $22.8 million from the write-off of issuance costs and associated original issuance discount. Second, in 2013 we recorded a gain in fair value of warrants associated with our senior secured notes of $23.4 million versus $5.6 million in 2012.

Third, in 2013 we recorded a gain in fair value of embedded derivatives associated with our convertible senior notes of $16.4 million versus a loss of $8.2 million last year. The variances for both the fair value of warrants and the fair value of derivatives are mainly a result of fluctuations in our stock price.

And last, income tax expense related to continuing operations in 2013 resulted in a benefit of $33 million in 2013 versus an expense of $82.9 million in 2012. The income tax benefit was driven by pre-tax losses as a result of the impairment I just covered and the tax expense in the prior-year period was driven by $37 million valuation allowance against net operating losses. $31.5 million of which was related to amounts that will be repatriated after the divestiture of our foreign operations in 2012 and $10.1 million related to pre-tax book income. As a result of all of these adjustments we reported a net loss of $67.8 million in 2013 versus a net loss of $106.2 million in 2012. I’ll now move on to the balance sheet.

All figures are for the periods ended December 31, 2013, and December 31, 2012 respectively. We had cash and cash equivalents of $15.2 million and restricted cash of $11.5 million at yearend 2013. This compares to cash and cash equivalents of $34.6 million and restricted cash of $21.9 million in the prior-year.

Our total debt as of December 31, 2013 was $98.4 million. This consisted of $23.1 million net of discount on our senior secured notes, $28 million net of discount on our convertible senior notes and $47.3 million of subordinated notes for a total of $98.4 million less $10.2 million which is considered current because of our obligation to repay part of our senior secured notes by February 28, 2014 which we did on February 6 of this year. This compares the debt as of December 31, 2012 of $96.3 million the breakdown of which is as follows. $23.6 million outstanding on our senior secured notes net of discount, $25.3 million on our convertible senior notes net of discount and $47.3 million on our subordinated notes. The current portion of the debt for 2012 was $25.3 million.

As Todd outlined in his remarks just a moment ago, in 2013 we consummated the sales of certain non-core assets and entered into two joint ventures which generated a combined total cash proceeds of $65 million and significantly lowered our anticipated carrying cost and related expenses for future drilling and exploration. Detail on these cash and non-cash items is provided in our 10-K filing in detail. We used the cash received to fund general corporate activities and to reduce the current liabilities and amount outstanding on our senior secured notes from $26.8 million to $15 million. We also entered into an agreement with our three cofounders to exchange the entire $47.3 million of subordinated notes into a combination of shares of our common stock and a new series of perpetual preferred stock.

Further more, as we announced a few weeks ago, we entered into a fourth amendment to our East Texas joint venture. In this transaction our partner elected into all of our remaining former Phase III acreage position for cash and additional carry consideration to totaling approximately $15 million, along with an additional two well drilling commitment.

From a balance sheet perspective we received approximately $4.7 million in cash and a carry of our share of future joint venture cost of approximately $9.2 million. We also received an additional $1.1 million of cash from our partner related to the completion of the range ZaZa JV agreement, which was covered in our press release and is covered in detail in our 10-K filing. Further other comments before turning over the call to questions and answers.

With the deal that was structured in 2013 and the amendments to our East Texas JV we significantly reduced our capital needs while aligning ourselves with world class operators. We currently have interest in 33 wells with proven reserves that are approximately 680,000 BOE and a present value of $14.5 million. It's important to note, however, that these figures do not include the new wells we are bringing on now. Additionally, we’re carried for the cost to drill and complete approximately eight gross wells or two net wells in South and East Texas. Our two joint ventures are advancing now to the appraisal and development stages and we believe we will be in a position to generate increased production reserves this year.

We further believe that based on our anticipated increased production largely carried operating costs and through prudent use of the capital markets, we are well positioned to meet our liquidity requirements throughout the 2014 year and beyond. With that said, we do intend to take steps over the coming months to further reduce our debt position and to continue executing our plans to optimize our capital structure. It was in expectation of these plans that we opted to file the universal shelf registration for up to $150 million last November which shelf registration became effective in February of this year.

The shelf registration provides us with a number of capital market options to pursue whether bonds, preferred stock and/or common equity. One, which we disclosed yesterday evening in our earnings press release is our At The Market or ATM equity program under which we may sell from time-to-time common stock with an aggregate offering price up to $10 million. This ATM is designed to provide us with financial flexibility as we deploy an opportunistic strategy with respect to its utilization.

Our goal remains to prudently restructure and unencumber a balance sheet in order to provide us with more flexibility to pursue our stated growth strategy and to potentially acquire additional acreage positions where we can leverage our expertise and resources. It's taken us some time to unwind prior transactions and divest our non-core assets, but we’re just about there and I, and the management team here at ZaZa are confident that investors will soon see the benefits of our efforts in our financial performance. We remain opportunistic and will look to replicate our business model in areas where we have the technical expertise to be effective first movers. We are very much focused on enhancing our competitive position and generating long-term sustainable value for our shareholders.

I will now like to turn the call back over to Todd. Todd?

Todd Brooks

Thanks, Ian. In closing, it's been almost two years since our exit from the Hess JVs and this has been a challenging time for our company. During this period we have always remained true to our proof of concept and first mover business model. In doing so, we have continued to create a track record of identifying and proving up new plays along the Eagle Ford trend. We have continued to transact with premier partners. This track record and the quality of companies that we have partnered with, speaks for itself. Now that we have two new stabilizing joint ventures in place and we’re turning to the right in both of them, I look forward to growing this company and to seeing what it can become.

Operator, we’re ready for questions if there are any.

Question-and-Answer Session


(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of Robert Kecseg with Las Colinas Capital Management. Please proceed.

Robert Kecseg - Las Colinas Capital Management

Good morning, guys. I got a couple of areas, but I just wanted to start off with something maybe for Kevin about the play and the complexity of all these different zones. I was just going to ask kind of the juxtaposed complexity of the opportunities here versus this appraisal period maybe the market would understand that it's going to take a period of time to understand the best way to engineer these wells, could you speak to that?

Kevin Schepel

Right. The area traditionally, I know you’re probably familiar with lot of the work that Navidad did to the North. I mean that, the commingled multistage completions have proven themselves and kind of regenerated -- rejuvenated the area and we’ve done several of those. But one of the problems we had was that there were no really selective tests from the Buda down to the Glen Rose where you could actually know when you perforate and complete that large of an interval where the production is actually coming from. I mean those wells are coming in for 800 barrels a day and a couple million of gas, but you don’t really know selectively where those zones are.

So part of our appraisal program was really designed at completing those zones individually and getting a perspective, one the individual product confirmation gas or oil through the zones, what the deliverability is and then do we have the potential of multi -- multiple horizontal development opportunities in addition to the commingled strategy. So a lot of our development right now is kind of leading towards the horizontal development, and the wells that you’re going to see coming up here are mostly horizontal completion. So that information has been very, very useful in delineating the multiple stacked targets and we’ll continue to do that moving into the next phase of this appraisal.

Robert Kecseg - Las Colinas Capital Management

In the same area, could you kind of compare in general, I am looking at your layout of it on Page 7 of the presentation on the website that shows all these zones, all the Glen Rose and Eaglebine and all those laid out. And I was just wondering, could you differentiate how the acreage that’s in the AMI, with the larger partner compared to say some of the other counties around there, because there’s been a lot of drilling around, could you give us kind of a comparison of what we have potentially perhaps compared to the surrounding area?

Kevin Schepel

Right, well it's clear that the activity is moving from the North to the South, so our appraisal is really expanding that whole section and down to the southern portion of our acreage. So most of the activity has been in Madison County, a lot of that was lower Cretaceous, of course you have a lot of the Woodbine activity further to the north-west, but most of our activity is, in all of the new wells are positioning the stuff move to the south. So there’s obviously a lot more production performance associated with a lot of the development that’s been occurring in Madison, but we’re using all of that data to help project the development as we move forward.

Robert Kecseg - Las Colinas Capital Management

And then one last thing in this area; there was something published about the El Halcon and gave a presentation of all the wells from beginning to end in this El Halcon. I noticed that the results in the beginning were a lot smaller than they seem to be now, and would you -- and is it fair to say to attribute that to just the typical growth of understanding of how to get it out of there, I guess in my layman’s terms.

Kevin Schepel

Yes, well the El Halcon the information we’ve got, they’re looking at longer laterals putting more proppant. I know there was some initial concern in the initial performance comparing it back to the Eagle Ford. But you got to remember that area is quite a bit shallower than us, so the reservoir energy is decreasing. You’re looking at something in the 8,500 foot range versus our area that extends from -- because it's a large position, extends from about 10,000 feet in depth to about 12,005. So, with that you get increased energy in the reservoir, increased pressure and we also get a little bit higher GOR which by the way is actually a lot -- GOR is a lot lower than we originally expected which is really, really positive. We’re seeing a lot better response in terms of the actual liquids volumes we’re seeing on the wells. But with that increased GOR we get a little bit better energy. So, we’re hoping that will impact -- hopefully better EURs going forward.

Robert Kecseg - Las Colinas Capital Management

I was going to say, I’ll step out of the question and maybe come back later for some financial questions.

Kevin Schepel

Sure. Give me a call at any time, we can talk in detail.

Robert Kecseg - Las Colinas Capital Management

Thank you.


Our next question comes from the line of Riverloft Partners. Please proceed.

Unidentified Analyst

Hi, guys. How are you?

Kevin Schepel


Todd Brooks


Unidentified Analyst

Good. Hey listen, I know it's tough with EOG in the confidentiality agreements, but how do you suggest we get our arms around or better track the drilling activity. Is there some railroad data that we can check out or infrastructure going in, in the place that we can somehow track just again on a more real-time basis see how this JV is progressing?

Todd Brooks

I’ll start that answer with from an infrastructure perspective and then maybe move into some visibility on drilling pace and maybe even talk a little bit about our carry that we have in CapEx and what we’re planning for. From an infrastructure perspective a multi-year contract has been executed with Kinder Morgan for takeaway and 100 million a day Kinder line it runs from the north to the south that cuts through the western third of our block. There’s also 100 million a day in Bridgeline that’s being constructed now that will run through the middle of the block. Actions are being taken now to have a third party build a cryo plant in the middle of the block. And our JV partner is undertaking a 3D seismic shoot with the first phase covering about two-thirds of the block, and we’re aiming to have that shot and processed by the fall of this year.

So, from a drilling pace perspective and visibility, we have direct visibility on three new horizontals and one vertical stack and frac over the next 90 days. The three horizontals I mentioned in my prepared remarks and then the vertical stack and frac is, it straddles the AMI lines, so we’ll probably end up with an eight versus a quarter on that well. And then we’re modeling for four more horizontals and two verticals in the second half of this year. It's important to note, these models do not reflect especially as it pertains to the second half of the year, they don’t reflect direct visibility or planned commitments from our JV partner, but they do reflect our planning for cash cost.

So then, let me tie that into the carry that we have that I mentioned. So we got in East Texas we’ve got $15 million approximately of carry left. What we’re anticipating is about $5 million of this to go to land renewals and extensions. We are allocating about $1 million of this to go to gathering lines and facilities, $1 million or so to go to the 3D seismic and about $8 million for drilling CapEx. And the way that I’m breaking that $8 million down is three horizontals, the cost per horizontal we’re estimating to be $10 million per well, so $2.5 million per well to our 25%, that’s $7.5 million of the $8 million and then part of a vertical frac and stack like I mentioned. Estimated cost on vertical frac and stack we’re looking at $4 million, so $1 million to our quarter. And if we have an $8 million versus a quarter because it straddles the AMI line, that’s the $500,000. So that covers East Texas. We’re also anticipating one to two more wells with Sabine in South Texas over the course of 2014. So that kind of covers CapEx infrastructure drilling pace I think.

Kevin Schepel

Yes, in regards to your outside industry information, we have a railroad commission link in the operation section of our website which allow you to actually go in and look at the current activity in terms of permitting, and if you’re actually subscribed to for instance drilling info there’s even information in there on activity on A&D and leasing and stuff. So that helps a lot, but we do provide those links on the website.

Unidentified Analyst

Great. Any indication from EOG when they’re going to start being a little bit more vocal or public about their activity here?

Todd Brooks

No indication there. As soon as we have an indication we will share it.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, great. I’ll get back in the queue guys. Thanks a lot.

Todd Brooks



(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from the line of [Brent West] [ph]. Please proceed.

Unidentified Participant

Yes, you guys mentioned in your last earnings conference call that you’re looking into hedge books, what's -- is there any progress on that?

Kevin Schepel

Yes, there have. We continue to explore options related to hedging. Clearly it becomes more pertinent as the production increases. So we have got discussions underway with some counterparties and we’ve been working with the outside consultants to determine how to put a plan in place. We have not yet put a plan in place but the anticipation is that we will be doing so.

Unidentified Participant

Okay, great. Thanks.


(Operator Instructions) There are no other questions at this time.

Todd Brooks

Okay. Well again, thank you for joining this fourth quarter and year-end 2013 earnings and operational update call. As always, we look forward to the next call and to answering any questions you may have. Thank you.


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation in today’s conference. This concludes our presentation. You may now disconnect. Have a wonderful day.

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