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Bill Barrett Corp (NYSE:BBG)

Q1 2007 Earnings Call

May 08, 2007 12:30 pm ET

Executives

Bill Crawford - Manager, IR

Fred Barrett - Chairman, CEO

Joe Jaggers - President, COO

Bob Howard - CFO

Analysts

Larry Busnardo - Tristone Capital Inc

Robert Lynd - Simmons & Company

Presentation

Operator

Good afternoon. My name is Tamera, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time I would like to welcome everyone to the Bill Barrett's Corporation First Quarter Conference Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speaker's remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instruction).

Thank you, Mr. Crawford you may begin your conference.

Bill Crawford

Thank you, Tamera. Good morning and welcome to Bill Barrett Corporation's conference call to review first quarter 2007 operating and financial results, and to update you on our current operating activity. My name is Bill Crawford, Manager of Investor Relations. With me today are Fred Barrett, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer; Joe Jaggers, President and Chief Operating Officer and Bob Howard Chief Financial Officer.

Bob will begin by giving a brief review of our financial results for first quarter 2007.

These were announced before the market opened today in a press release, which may be found on our website or through various financial news sources. We plan to file our Form 10-Q with the SEC today.

For this conference call, we have also provided user controlled slideshow, which may be found on our website, www.billbarrettcorp.com and as an exhibit to our Form 8-K which was filed with the SEC today.

Following Bob's, brief financial review, Joe will provide an operational update on our development projects and then we'll hand it over to Fred for an update on our exploration projects and company outlook. We expect these discussions to last 25 to 30 minutes, and as Tamera said, we will follow with a question-and-answer session.

Before we begin, please note that forward-looking statements and cautionary statements disclosures are on slide 2 of our presentation and, were also included in our press release today. Please note that during our discussion we make reference to discretionary cash flow which is a non-GAAP measure. The reconciliation to the appropriate GAAP measures was provided on the press release today. Bob.

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Bob Howard

Thanks Bill. Back at Bill Barrett Corporation and first quarter of 2007. A summary of operating and financial results are shown on slide 3. In the first quarter of 2007, we've produced oil and gas at an average daily rate of 157 million cubic feet equivalent per day, an 8% increase over first quarter 2006 and a 2% improvement on fourth quarter 2006.

Total production was 14.2 Bcfe and we are still on track to meet our 2007 guidance of 58 Bcfe to 63 Bcfe.

In the first quarter of 2007, we realized an average sales price of $6.84 per MCFE and generated $68.5 million of discretionary cash flow or $1.55 per share. This compares to the first quarter of 2006 when our average sales price was $7.42 per MCFE and we generated $71.3 million of cash flow.

The reduction in average sales price is due to general market declines in the Rockies, offset by our hedging program. The effect of this price reduction on cash flow was offset by increased production quantities and lower production taxes. We generated net income of $14.2 million or $0.32 per diluted share in the first quarter of '07 which compares to $22.1 million or $0.50 per share in the 2006 first quarter.

This reduction was caused by lower sales prices and an increase in DD&A to $2.89 per Mcfe, which is comparable to our depletion rate in the fourth quarter of 2006. Our cash operating cost which consists of LOE, gathering production taxes and G&A totaled $1.88 per Mcfe in the March quarter. Production taxes decreased compared to 2006 due to lower gas prices and an increased production mix in lower taxed states.

In the first quarter 2007, we expensed $3.4 million in dry hole cost related to Cooper Deep #1 well for only for those cost related to formations below the Cody/Niobrara. This well is currently producing from the Cody/Niobrara formation.

In the first quarter of 2007, we received $7.4 million for settlements on our commodity hedges, which offset a reduction in wellhead prices in the Rockies. Slide 4, shows our current hedge position for natural gas. Approximately 64% of our gas production for April through December is hedged in the combined Rockies for a swap price of $5.94 per MMBtu and 20% of our 2008 gas production is hedged as a combined collar swap price of $6.67 per MMBtu.

Our 2008 hedges are concentrated in the first quarter of 2008 to reduce the risk of the next phase of the Rockies Express pipeline being delayed beyond January 2008.

Our capital expenditures totaled nearly $81 million for the first quarter, including $63 to drilling complete wells and to add facilities, [$8 million] for the resold acquisitions, $5 million on geologic and geophysical costs, $1 million for furniture fixtures and equipment. We still plan to spend between $425 million and $550 million of CapEx for the year.

Our first quarter results includes 650 million cubic feet equivalent of production from our property held for sale, principally the Williston Basin properties.

We are negotiating a purchase and sale agreement with a high bidder for our Williston Basin properties. The auction price just went well and we are very pleased with the bids we received. The effective date of the sale is May 1st. Considering the net production revenue we received through May 1st, our total proceeds in 2007 with respect to the Williston properties will be between $85 million and $90 million.

Our net book basis in the properties is $70 million. We will announce further terms after the purchase or sale agreement is signed. We currently have $200 million outstanding under our line of credit. Our bank line capacity is $365 million based on the year end 2006 reserve levels. We will fund our capital expenditures with cash flow from operations, sales proceeds from Williston and debt availability. I'll turn it over to Joe Jaggers to review our development activities.

Joe Jaggers

Thanks Bob. As slide number 5 shows the first quarter is a continuation of a very strong production growth. From an operations' perspective, our quarter was a solid one. We averaged a 157 million cubic feet equivalent per day for the quarter, a 10% increase on full year 2006 rate of a 143 million a day. As I'll highlight in our next slide, we made important progress in each of our core development areas, and are well positioned to deliver full year production within the guidance range of $159 to $173 million cubic feet per day.

With the conclusion of our Williston sale, our production will be concentrated in four basins and our development activity concentrated in three of them, the Uinta, the Piceance and Powder River Basin.

Turning to slide number 6, I'll provide an update on each of these development areas. Beginning at West Tavaputs, early in the quarter we added our eighth compressor and late in the first quarter, we added our ninth and tenth to the Dry Canyon compression facility. These compressors complete the facility and bring us to 95 million a day of installed capacity, a point just above our contracted processing capacity of 92 million per day.

Processing capacity therefore is effectively our producing limit at this point in time. During April, we averaged 92.6 million per day completely utilizing our available processing. While we'll add further compression during the summer, we will still be constrained by processing until mid third quarter when an additional 18 million a day of processing capacity will be available.

Our efficiency on deep well drilling continues to improve. The two twelve well was drilled in 68 days, approximately a 30% reduction in drilling time from the previous two wells. Our total cost of the two twelve was $7.9 million. And we expected TD current well, the five two within the next two weeks. We are operating one deep rig and one shallow rig plan to begin operations June 1, that the conclusion of winter stipulations.

We are testing increased well density in the field to 40 acres in three wells this year. The pilot data gathering includes microseismic cross well, seismic demography pressure testing, volume and Tricon outcrop study work and we plan to be in the position by the end of the year to begin booking 40 acre wells.

Finally, at West Tavaputs, we now expect to record a decision for the EIS during this spring '08. Like virtually, every EIS conducted recently, this schedule represents some slippage from earlier estimates. We continue to experience close and effective cooperation with agencies and good progress. The draft document is currently with participating agencies, we expect a decision at the end of this process that supports year around full development of the field.

In the Piceance, we added a fourth drilling rig. This is somewhat in response to the West Tavaputs EIS delay that also the result of improved well ultimate recoveries, lower development cost and our extensive and long inventory of well locations. We now planned 102 wells for the year. Like in West Tavaputs, in the Piceance we are piloting increased well density. We have seven pilot areas established and plan to drill 27 10 acre wells this year. The data gathering efforts will be similar to West Tavaputs and again targets year end 2007 to begin booking 10 acre wells.

In the Powder River Basin, we are currently operating between four and five drilling rigs of particular significance and notice our Cat Creek area which is now producing 3 million cubic feet per day.

Turning to slide number 7, I'll make several broad points regarding our operations. First and most importantly, production is on forecast as we've laid out our activities for the year, it causes our production growth to be back end loaded. A few points that illustrate the back end loading are at West Tavaputs. Our significant increases in compression occurred late in Q1, and our next increase in processing occurs in Q3. These steps therefore largely impact Q2 through Q4 production. Another point on West Tavaputs is the beginning of operations with our third rig at mid year was clearly late year production implications.

In the Piceance, we've just added our fourth rig, and again productional impact as a result of this fourth rig will occur after mid-year. And in the Powder River basin dewatering and our highest impact area’s well on track and in some cases ahead of plan, is just beginning.

A few words on drilling and completion cost trends. In our development areas, we continue to experience flatter declining costs compared to the levels of a year ago. We have made significant improvement with cost of high pressure pumping services and drilling rigs, our expectation given increased service capacity and high basis differential in the Rockies likely reducing some demand for these services as that we will continue to see moderate pricing throughout 2007.

LOE for the quarter was impacted by a number of non-recurring items, including one-time compressor rental charges, annual surface used payments, 2006 power bills paid in 2007, and extraordinary work-over charges. Notwithstanding these, we expect LOE to be within guidance full year.

Our gathering, however, is likely to increase by some $0.03 to $0.05 full year versus guidance. This is a result of contracting for services that provide improved marketing. As an example, in the Piceance, we are moving a portion of our gas production through in [Canyon] system rather than through our direct connect with Questar system. Even though this service comes at a cost, the improved pricing, and greater assurance that our gas will flow, more than offset the increased gathering cost.

Rockies Express begin service to Cheyenne, early in the first quarter. The pipeline received its first certificate for the next construction phase as schedule during April, and were told to expect in-service to mid-continent at January 2008. Our 25 million a day of firm capacity on the line can be sourced from either our Peceance or our Uinta Basin operation.

Moving now to summer '07, gas prices [closing] this summer will be a difficult price period to Rockies gas. Our pipeline is at our near capacity, pricing will very much depend on regional weather and infrastructure availability. As Bob mentioned, on the financial side we are 65% hedged April through to October. On the physical sale side, we have agreements in place to sell 67% of our forecast gas production through October and we are making plans to sell an additional 20% to assure physical flow capacity.

I'll now turn things over to our CEO, Fred Barrett, to provide an update on our delineation and exploration program and an outlook for the company.

Fred Barrett

Thank you, Joe , and for the last part of my discussion I'd like to bring up to date on a number of our high potential exploration programs and then give a brief wrap up for our conference call discussion before opening up for questions and answers.

Let me begin by saying that our exploration program for 2007 is up to a great start in terms of drilling and testing execution. As Joe mentioned during the first four months of 2007 we have seen continued success with our third Deep test of West Tavaputs [entering 3D] and the fourth well in that program. We've continued with a testing phase or will be testing on three of our four exploration projects and as removed through the remainder of 2007, were giving up to continue exploration and delineation drilling in six key areas.

As see on slide 8, I would like to bring you up to speed as it relate to the initial drilling and some of the testing results in the Yellow Jacket, Lake Canyon and Woodside areas of the southern division. Then also summarize forth coming activity in the Montana Overthrust Big Horn and Wind River Basin.

Our Yellow Jacket project in the Paradox Basin, we are targeting a widespread shale gas resource concept associated with Pennsylvanian and Gothic shale. We have recently drilled, poured and our testing two vertical wells depths ranging between 5500 and 6000 feet. While certain information is being held confidential, we are disclosing our encroachment from one of these wells which had sustained rates over 500 Mcf per day with consistent flow tuning pressures. The gas quality of the Gothic is excellent, it's over 1200 Btu heating value. We are still on the final stages of testing our second well. And through the remainder of 2007 we will continue to test these wells and drill at least two other explorations wells this year.

Additionally, the company is contemplating the possibility of additional vertical wells in its first horizontal test in the Gothic.

Note that it could take the company’s four to eighteen months to determine all economic feasibility and to see its production facilities are wanted. We have a 35% working interest in the area and control over 205 gross acres. In our Lake Canyon/Blacktail Ridge area we are in a process of finalizing completion work on a two North-East offsets to the original DLB number one well which has produced nearly 28,000 barrels of oil from the Wasatch formation.

Although we see a low cuts from these two offset wells. The rates would suggest the wells are on the Eastern margin of display. The remainder of 2007 drilling program will focus on filling in the gap between our original Lake Canyon discovery and the Altamont Bluebell field to the North. We've planned a minimum of three wells in the Lake Canyon area and a minimum of five wells in our Blacktail Ridge area where a numerous existing Wasatch wells are proven productive.

With all the company has a 56% to 75% working interest in Lake Canyon and a 50% to 100% working interest in the Blacktail Ridge area. Elsewhere in Uinta Basin we recently drilled and set pipes on our Woodside number one well which is targeting Pennsylvanian gas zones on a known four way structural closure. This well is drilled to a total depth of 6,370 feet with a 100% working interest. We expect to move a completion rig under the number one Woodside over coming weeks to test a number of gas shale intervals in counter while drilling in the Pennsylvanian section. In addition later in the third and fourth quarters of '07 we've planned to test our shale gas concept in the Hook area just north of the Woodside project area. Both Hook and Woodside lie to the South-West of our West Tavaputs development program in the UNO, which Joe talked about previously.

Let me also update you on two other exciting exploration programs that are scheduled for testing during the upcoming months. First, our Circus project in the overthrust belt in southwest Montana; this is a play that has emerged as a major structural exploration position for our company with a 50% working interest and over 340,000 gross acres.

In the Circus region again we are targeting multi-TCF type features, features that are analogous to the prolific structures found in the Canadian and Wyoming overthrust trends.

Like many of our projects, the utilization of 3D seismic technology is an integral part of our exploration assessment. We have nearly 155 square miles of contiguous seismic coverage and are in the final phases of depth processing. The early seismic data suggests the presence of several intriguing large four way structural leads. We have at least two locations stake or two of the identified features and expect to begin drilling our first well some time early in July of 2007.

One other note we plan to acquire an additional 75 square miles of 3D seismic this summer to the west of our Circus project area, we refer to this as the Austin Six Mile area. This is an area where we have accumulated over 65,000 gross acres along with our partner and adds a whole new dynamic to the Circus region. Combined, our Circus and Austin Six Mile areas now give us significant exploratory latitude both north and south and east and west in targeting these large scale multiple structural features.

In our Bighorn Basin Project of north central Wyoming, we are targeting a multi TCF basin-centered gas play. We recently recompleted five Mesa Verde stages in our Seller's Draw #1 and we are in the process of connecting it to sales line. Although the initial rates are not as encouraging as we had hoped we should begin selling anywhere from 200 to 300 MCF per day from the Mesa Verde (inaudible).

The 3-D does not support our original premise suggesting the presence of a classic structural [matters] due to Seller's Draw area. But it does define the presence of a prominent untested structural feature deeper in this section, which we interpret as an ancient meteor impact feature. Although somewhat rare, these ancient impact features also known as Astrablends, are historically quite productive where present in other oil and gas basins. Because of this recently identified feature, we have moved our first deep exploratory well in the Seller's Draw area to 2008 as we continue a further seismic and geologic assessment.

Also during the summer of 2007 in the Bighorn we will commence the acquisition of 43 square mile 3D seismic survey in our Red Point area where we continue to target a very prospective basin-centered gas concept along a large regional structural feature. This is a very prominent trans-basinal structure which trends for over 60 miles. At our Red Point area we are targeting over pressured tight gas sands in the Mesa Verde inlands where they intersect this large structural feature in the central portion of the basin. Our first well in this area is schedule for 2008.

In the Wind River Basin we are seeking a partner as we have indicated in the past to participate in our deep drilling program at our Cave Gulch, Bullfrog area targeting the Lakota, Muddy and Frontier intervals in the 16,000 to 19,000 foot range. You may recall we drilled our second deep successful Bullfrog well last year, our intent here with a partner is to maximize our drilling efficiencies, mitigate the cost side of drilling and accelerate our exposure to reserves and production in future wells.

We plan to implement a continuous one rig deep program and begin this project by year end 2007. Also in the Wind River Basin, south of our Bullfrog areas along the Waltman arch, the company also plans to drill a 16,400 foot muddy frontier desk. This is a step out to an original muddy discovery drilled by the company back in 2003, the Stone Cabin number 1 which is schemed approximately 4.2 Bcfe.

As I wrap up our discussions here today, let me re-emphasize several key points as we continue to execute on our programs. We continue to show solid production growth with our development programs and we are recently seeing our highest daily production rates to date. Although it's not surprising to EIS that West Tavaputs will likely be delayed in to 2008 as we have indicated in the past. We look forward to a substantial program at West Tavaputs after the EIS is completed, and also in getting more wells drilled while as the EIS is finishing up.

We will also continue to execute one of the most aggressive exploration agendas for any operator in the Rocky Mountain region during 2007 including a number of delineation projects based on past discoveries. We are focused on the goal of continuing our track record of exploration discoveries as we drill and test new wells in the Paradox, Uinta and Montana overthrust regions in 2007. As I mentioned before, we are already encouraged with certain projects as Bob and Joe mentioned, the Rocky's basis differential has been a challenge recently and will continue to be a challenge for operators in the Rocky Mountain region through 2007.

Remember the Bill Barrett operation has protected itself from this volatility as we move through the rest of 2007 and into early 2008 with the majority of our gas production ahead slightly above expected Rockies gas prices through this time period. Consequently along with our expected sale of the Williston Basin, we are financially employees and have the liquidity to drive stable, reliable, production growth and cash flow to the balance of 2007 and into 2008.

Before I hand it over to the operator, I would like to remind our audience of our recent 8-K indicating that one of our directors, Roger Jarvis is stepping down from the Board of Directors. I would like to take this opportunity and thank Roger Jarvis, who was one of our original directors for his hard work and dedication. His strategic vision and expertise were a great value to the company and our formative stages. Roger is decided to pursue other interests and not stand for reelection to the board. We all wish him the best.

And lastly, we have recently been in contact with Mr. Jim Mogg, a well known Midstream and Marketing Executive to join our board. Mr. Mogg is the former CEO, President and Chairman of Board of the Duke Energy Field Services and has held other positions with that company as well, and is the past President of the Gas Processors Association. Tomorrow, the board will meet to discuss this appointment.

Thank you. And I'll turn it over to the operator for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instruction) Your first question comes from Larry Busnardo with Tristone Capital.

Larry Busnardo - Tristone Capital

Hey, good morning guys.

Bob Howard

Good morning.

Larry Busnardo - Tristone Capital

In regards to West Tavaputs, I just want to get a sense of what the plan is going to be there going forward, it looks like you are adding additional rates, so for drilling activities going to continue as we head into summer. You would be maxed out at 90 million a day, you get the 18 million a day added later this -- into the third quarter. What are the additional plans there in terms of takeaway capacity and processing capacity there?

Joe Jaggers

Well, this is Joe. Good morning. The next step is, first quarter 2008, we are negotiating and have the hedge of agreement resolved for a deal that takes 70,000 MMBtu east on Ouestar's mid-stream operation. That's -- in addition to giving us more take away from the Tavaputs field also gives us access to some work at northwest pipeline markets. So, an improvement, a couple of ways there but that's the next step up Larry.

Larry Busnardo - Tristone Capital

Okay. Looking at the D program obviously that's progressing, what's going to be the plans on the West side of the structure? The timing I think, it's quickly paired on that side of things.

Fred Barrett

The West structure, Larry, is not going to drilled until 2008, our current plan is to stay on that the east structure. But the final well that will start this year on the East structure will be a deeper test, the way it's contemplated now, when the seismic was acquired that indicated that Jurassic structure that we're having so much success with now and it also indicated a deeper structure that will pass with the final well this year.

Larry Busnardo - Tristone Capital

Do you have, on these that is there, two more wells to go in that program? There were four total, correct?

Fred Barrett

Yeah, that the 2-12 the first one this year that didn’t count though when that stopped, it's the ones that we spud in the year and so there is actually three to go.

Larry Busnardo - Tristone Capital

Three more to go okay. And then just shifting over to Sellers Draw, can you just provide a little bit more detail on that what you saw or what happened on the brief inflation there and then what may have resulted in the disappointing results there?

Fred Barrett

Yeah. In the Sellers Draw area, Larry, we drilled - we ran out of an old well bore, so is drill number one that had several strings of anything that we had to perforate through. But once we had a sharper 3D and made our interpretation, one of the first things we realized was that what we thought was there, wasn't, in the form of a more of a conventional structural [node] that we thought was running though that area.

It turned out that the old 2D, which kind of misled you into believing, that structural [node] actually was the same part of this big deep structural Astroblem that we know is present down in the deeper horizons and it's more of a localized structure. We always like to see and really target regional structural elements as it relates to these basin-centered gas plays. You see that in the Piceance Basin. There are a number of structural elements in the Piceance that really help drive that play via at the big Pinedale mine that kind of drives that play up there in the Green River Basin. And so, as we tested this Mesa Verde well, we indeed actually felt that I'd be surprised if we even made a well out of Mesa Verde because of the lack of that structure there. We have made a producer out of it. It's a little bit like (inaudible) at this point.

So, it relates to kind of a basin-centered concept up there, Larry. Where we're focused now is further to the north in the Red Point area. We're targeting a big structure that kind of plunges into the deep part of the basin and we're shooting at 3D across that features. It is that this features longer than and it's bigger than the Pinedale Anticline in terms of length and what not.

So, we're kind of focused up there now as it relates to basin-centered Mesa Verde [lands] production type play and further to the south in the Sellers Draw area. Our focus now has been drawn towards this deep impact feature. And that's one I'm sure you can have push up until 2008?

Bill Crawford

Right. We won't understand that's the deep test I mean you are looking at 23,000, 24,000 feet but I was wondering two well the up shot there is that you make a 250 to 500 BCF type [play] with the minimal amount of wells. And so we want to make sure we have everything absolutely understood in terms of type and processing and so on and so forth and the imaging in that area. We've got more geologic work to do on a regional basis and we are also looking at a number of analog place we are doing pretty -- in particular as to where we put the first well in that impact feature.

Larry Busnardo - Tristone Capital

And then just you might begin on Circus is it this summer as of timing?

Bill Crawford

Absolutely. Yeah, as far as I know.

Larry Busnardo - Tristone Capital

Okay. All right thanks.

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Your next question comes from Robert Lynd with Simmons & Company.

Robert Lynd - Simmons & Company

Good morning.

Bill Crawford

Good morning.

Robert Lynd - Simmons & Company

At Lake Canyon can you give us some idea as to how much of your eastern acreage might be condemned based on what you saw on the recent wells. And is that acreage still prospected for the Green River?

Fred Barrett

First of all let me answer that last question first, we have not tested any zones in the Green River in these two wells although we do see a potential pay zones in those wells. Let me just leave that at that point. Let me also just point out that the two offsets that you are able to look at a map and we have plenty of those on the website really are located on the extreme eastern portion of Lake Canyon.

You need to understand the size of Lake Canyon -- when you asked that question. When you look at the map some 13 to 14 pound shift that we control lie west and North West of where we drilled these two offsets. Virtually the entire Lake Canyon area is technically prospective and no way shale performed to these two wells and condemn the majority of Lake Canyon, and I would say if you would have be fair with yourself and look at this geologically that you may have condemn may be 5% to 10% of the Lake Canyon area as it relates to loss edge. Again we have not tested the Green River and these two wells, so that remains to be determined. But this is an area that we are going to move further to the North and North West and kind of fill in the gaps here as we continue with our program drilled three wells in the Northern Lake canyon area and drill five wells further to the North and the Blacktail Ridge area.

Robert Lynd - Simmons & Company

Okay that's helpful and just moving to the Piceance, I know it's early with this 10 acre spacing, but what are your initial thoughts on potential communication between 10 acre wells should we assume may be a 20% haircut to average reserves for 20 and wider space wells?

Joe Jaggers

Robert this is Joe again, the wells that are on 10 acres space and are almost certain, they have some communication at some of the sand levels, so we are using internally a number a not much difference [one] than what you are thinking the 80% haircut for the economics. It will be later in the year though when we completed some of the drilling and some of the data gathering and had some production performance and we have a better handle on that. The average GUR for 2006 turned out to be 1.3 and while that's influenced by geography as well as or geology, as well as completion practices, we are targeting overall including our [tens] around a 1 BCF recovery going forward.

Robert Lynd - Simmons & Company

Thank you, that's all I had.

Operator

At this time there are no further questions, are there any closing remarks?

Bill Crawford

Yes there are. Thank you all for participating in today's first quarter 2007 conference call. As I mentioned earlier, we are filing our form 10-Q with the SEC today. I encourage you to read it for a more complete review of our results I would also like to mention that our annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, May 8th at 9:30 am mountain daylight time in Denver. The meeting and subsequent company's overview will be webcast and posted on our website www.billbarrettcorp.com at that time. This concludes our conference call thank you very much.

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