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Energen Corporation (NYSE:EGN)

Q4 FY07 Earnings Call

January 24, 2008, 11:00 AM ET

Executives

Julie S. Ryland - VP, IR

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and CEO

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - VP and CFO

Analysts

John Freeman - Raymond James

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Operator

Good morning. My name is Matt and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Energen quarterly earnings conference call. [Operator Instructions]. I would now like to introduce Julie Ryland. I will turn the call over to her. Thank you. Ms. Ryland, you may begin the conference.

Julie S. Ryland - Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you Matt and good morning. Welcome to all of you joining us by phone and by Internet. Today's conference call is being held in conjunction with Energen Corporation's announcement yesterday of our 2007 and fourth quarter results of operations. Our prepared remarks will include statements expressing expectations of future plans, objectives, and performance that constitute forward-looking statements made pursuant to the Safe Harbor provision of the private security litigation reform act of 1995. Except as otherwise disclosed, the company's forward looking statements do not reflect the impact of possible or pending acquisitions, divestitures, or restructurings. All statements based on future expectations rather than on historical facts are forward looking statements that are dependent on certain events, risks and uncertainties that may be outside the company's control and could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated. Our discussion of risks and uncertainties that could affect future results of Energen and its subsidiaries is included in the company's periodic report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. At this time, I will turn the call over to Energen Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, James McManus. James.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Julie. I understand we are among the first to kick off the earnings season and I am very pleased to get things underway with a report on Energen's excellent results in 2007. Natural gas hedging, strong prices applicable to our unhedged oil and natural gas liquid volumes, and accelerated development of our unproved reserves, all of these factors were major contributors to Energen's sixth straight year of record earnings. We also affirmed our 2008 earnings guidance range of $3.95 to $4.35 per diluted share, and we initiated earnings guidance for 2009 with a range of $4.45 per share to $4.85 per diluted share. I think it is important to emphasize that we achieved record earnings of $4.28 per diluted share in 2007, even though prior year earnings included $0.56 per diluted share of one-time gains, the sale of half of our October 2006 acreage position in Alabama shales to Chesapeake and the settlement of our Enron bankruptcy claim. The expectations that Energen would deliver in 2007 helped generate for shareholders a total return of 38%.

Over the last five years, Energen's annualized total return to shareholders is 36% a year. Among the highlights of just completed 2007 was Energen Resource's record production of 98.6 billion cubic feet equivalent. Not only did we increase our capital spending to accelerate the production of our undeveloped reserves, but our horizontal drilling activities in the San Juan basin performed even better than expected. With year-end proved reserves of 1.75 trillion cubic feet equivalent and net reserve additions topping 115 billion cubic feet, Energen Resources once again demonstrated its ability to replace reserves organically by bringing into production its extensive undeveloped reserves. In addition, we made a small Permian Basin acquisition in the interest rollup during 2007 that contributed 14.5 bcf to year-end proved reserves. Even though final adjustments are being made to year-end reserves, we see our three-year F&D cost inclusive of acquisitions coming in at approximately $2 per mcf. Another highlight of 2007 was the 7-year extension of our natural gas utilities rate setting method. Rate Stabilization and Equalization or RSE as we call it has been place for 25 years. It has benefited the company and our customers. Alagasco’s return on equity under RSE remains 13.5% to 13.65%. One other item I want to touch on before we delve into some numbers is Alabama shales.

Energen and Chesapeake have now amassed an acreage lease position in multiple shell plays in North and Central Alabama totaling 565,000 acres. Energen's net position is 50% of that amount or 282,500 acres. First three permits in our planned 5 to 10 well test program have been obtained with drilling in Greene and Bibb Counties in Central Alabama and work is scheduled to begin on the first well within the week. This test program is aimed at helping us to find the productive potential of our joint acreage position. As such, our efforts will involve considerable science. We know the investment community is anxious for results, but frankly they are months away from being known. We do not plan to disclose well-by-well results. Rather our plans are to work as thoroughly and expediently as possible to announce our findings, when sufficient data has been gathered. At this time, I would like to ask Chuck Porter, our Chief Financial Officer to walk you through the financial results for 2007 and our fourth quarter. After Chuck is finished, I will return to talk to you about 2008 and 2009 earnings guidance. Chuck.

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you James. Energen's net income in 2007 totaled $309.2 million or $4.28 per diluted share. '06 earnings totaled $273.6 million or $3.73 per diluted share. As James mentioned, the prior year results included $34.5 million or $0.47 per diluted share gain from the sell of our half of October 2006 acreage position in Alabama shales to Chesapeake Energy and $6.7 million or $0.09 per diluted share gained from the settlement of our Enron bankruptcy claim. As you might expect, Energen Resources Corporation again was the primary driver of consolidated earnings growth in 2007. Contributing net income of $273.2 million, Energen Resources benefited from a 19% increase in realized sales prices, a 3% rise in production to 98.6 bcf equivalent and an increased income tax benefit on qualified production. Partially offsetting these items, we had hire lease operating expense including production taxes, higher DD&A expense and increased G&A expense. Energen Resources net income in the prior year totaled $237.6 million and included both of the one-time gains that I mentioned earlier. I want to refer you to the per unit revenues and production tables in our news release for additional details on these topics, but let me say here that the increases in our realized sales prices year over year were quite strong, 12% for natural gas, 30% for oil, and 35% for natural gas liquids. With respect to production, our accelerated drilling program in the San Juan basin led to a 6% increase in production in our largest area of operation. We continue to be very pleased with the results of our horizontal drilling program in the San Juan basin, and it continues to outperform our expectations. Our oil production, almost all of which is in the Permian Basin also was up 6% over last year. Of the big factors contributing to the increase were accelerated development of our [inaudible] properties along with some non-operated drilling activities. Per-unit LOE in 2007 totaled $2.05 per unit. This 6% increase from 2006 largely was due to additional compression increase, repairs and workover expenses, higher severance taxes and a general rise in fuel service cost. DD&A expense in 2007 increased 13% to $1.13 per mcf equivalent largely due to higher development cost and a decline in 2006 year-end reserve prices. Alagasco generated net income of $36.8 million. This was a slight decrease from prior year net income of $37.3 million. The major factors here were revenue reductions under the utility's rate saving mechanism that are designed to bring the utility’s average ROE for the rate year within its allowed range of return and then we had less than expected fourth quarter sales to Alagasco's residential and large commercial and industrial customers. Turning next to fourth quarter results, for the three months ended December 31, 2007, Energen’s net income totaled $79.4 million or $1.10 per diluted share. In 2006, consolidated net income totaled $95.1 million or $1.31 per diluted share. And included the $34.5 million gain from the acreage position sale and the $6.7 million gain from the Enron bankruptcy settlement. Energen Resources net income total $73.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2007 and compared with $87.6 million in the prior year. Again the one-time gains are embedded in the 2006 net income. Energen Resources fourth quarter 2007 realized prices increased 26% over the same period a year ago and production increased 5% to 25.3 bcf equivalent. Our news release of course has additional detail. Per unit LOE in the fourth quarter of 2007 was a 6% increase to $1.99 per mcf equivalent largely due to a 30% rise in price related production taxes. Per unit DD&A expense in the fourth quarter of 2007 increased 13% to $1.21 per mcf equivalent primarily due to higher development cost.

Alagasco's natural gas distribution [inaudible] reported net income of $5.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2007 as compared with $8.1 million in the same period a year ago. This decrease primarily reflects less than expected sales to residential and large commercial and industrial customers.

One other item I want to mention before turning the call back to James. Energen’s Board of Directors yesterday voted to increase our quarterly cash dividend 4.3% to $0.12 per share. This marks the 26th consecutive year that Energen’s cash dividend has been increased. On an annualized basis, the company’s new dividend rate is $0.48 per share. The dividend is payable March 3, 2008 to shareholders of record on February 15, 2008. This increase reflects a projected payout of net income from Alagasco that is in line with traditional gas utility payout of 65% to 75%. While Energen Resources contributes a small portion of its net income to the dividend, the majority of its cash flows are targeted to be re-invested in our oil and gas business. With that here is James.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you Chuck. As I mentioned earlier, we are pleased to reaffirm our 2008 earnings guidance of $3.95 to $4.35 per diluted share, and importantly we initiated yesterday our 2009 guidance for the range of $4.45 to $4.85. None of our guidance by the way includes potential property acquisitions, any production from Alabama shales or stock repurchase. Let's start with the look at 2009. Approximately 52% of our estimated 2009 production is already hedged at NYMEX equivalent prices of $8.71 per mcf of gas, $70.75 per barrel of oil, and a $5 per gallon for natural gas liquids. I would encourage you to review our news release for details, further details of our 2009 hedge position. Our price assumptions for our unhedged volumes are below current strip prices, which are $8 per mcf for natural gas and $80 per barrel for oil and $1.04 per gallon for natural gas liquids.

We are particularly excited about our organic production growth, we expect in 2009. This growth is being driven primarily by our accelerated capital investment in 2007 and 2008. Our production estimates for 2009 is 108 million cubic feet equivalent and represents a 6% increase of our estimated 2008 production of 102 billion cubic feet equivalent. Other key assumptions for 2009 earnings guidance include capital spending of $335 million, $270 million at Energen Resources, and $65 million by Alagasco, DD&A at Energen resources of $1.36 per Mcf, LOE of $2.24 per Mcf including production taxes, and G&A expenses in Energen resources of $0.50 per mcf. Average diluted shares outstanding are estimated to be $72.4 million. We are also assuming that Alagasco will earn within its allowed range of average equity of approximately $326 million. Given Energen Resources current hedge position for 2009 and using the price assumptions for our unhedged production that I just outlined, we estimate that changes to commodity prices will have the following impact on Energen's 2009 earnings.

Every $0.10 change in the average NYMEX price of gas versus the $8 we are assuming has an impact of 2.1 cents per diluted share. Every dollar changed in the average NYMEX price for oil from our assumed $80 per barrel has a $1.08 per diluted share impact. Every 1 cent change in the average price of liquids forms our $1.04 per gallon assumption has $0.04 per diluted share impact.

I would note that price related events such as substantial basis differential changes could cause earnings sensitivities to be materially different than those outlined above.

Energen raised its 2008 earnings guidance in mid December by $0.30 to the new range, current range of $3.95 to $4.35 that I mentioned previously and we continue to affirm that range. The key assumptions in 2008 are existing hedge position covering 74% of our estimated production of 102 bcfe and for our break down of our 2008 hedge position again, I would refer you to the details in our news release.

Assumed prices of unhedged... on unhedged natural gas, oil, and natural gas liquids production of $7.50 per mcf, $75 a barrel, and $0.975 per gallon respectively. Capital spending for 2008 is $370 million, including $310 million by Energen Resources and $60 million by Alagasco. DD&A rate of $1.26 per mcf, LOE of $2.21 per mcf, and G&A expense of $0.49 per Mcf at Energen Resources. We also assume Alagasco earning within its allowed range of return on average equity of approximately $312 million.

Average diluted shares outstanding assumed to be $72.2 million in 2008. Our substantial hedge position in '08 has reduced our sensitivity to commodity prices. Let me give you those sensitivities now. Every $0.10 change in NYMEX gas from our assumption in '08 of 750 is $0.08 per diluted share. Every dollar change in the NYMEX price of oil from our assumption of $75 per barrel is $0.07 per diluted share. And every one-cent change in our average price of natural gas liquids from our assumed $0.97 has $0.01 per diluted share impact. Again, basis differentials could cause those differences to be different... those changes to be different than what I outlined above. The current NYMEX drift for the remaining 11 months of 2008 is around $7.80 per mcf per gas and $85 a barrel for oil. So, our assumptions are below that and there remains some pricing upside in 2008.

We are proud of our track record we have established at Energen over the last decade and we are very excited about the future. In addition to effectively executing our base business strategy, we have a number of investment opportunities in the years ahead that could add even more to our growth prospects. These include continued accelerated development of our extensive unproved reserves, property acquisitions, stock repurchase, and of course our potential in Alabama shales. At year-end 2007, we have a very healthy balance sheet and accumulating cash flows that we can draw upon. We project for the two-year period 2008 and 2009 that our free cash flow at Energen Resources available beyond our investments identified for capital expenditures and estimated dividends will total approximately $375 million to $435 million.

I know your time is at a premium. So, at this point, I will end my prepared remarks, but before doing so, I wanted to let you know that Energen's Board of Directors yesterday elected Johnny Richardson as President and Chief Operating Officer of Energen Resources. Johnny has headed up our acquisitions programs since 1997 and has served as COO at the E&P Company for the last two years. As such, he has been a key player in Energen Resources’ dramatic growth over the last dozen years, and I am confident that his broad based oil and gas background and 22 years of knowledge in Energen Resources will serve him well, as he oversees the day-to-day operations of our growing oil and gas exploration production business. At this time, I would ask Matthew to open the phone lines for your questions.

Question and Answer

Operator

[Operator Instructions]. Your first question comes from the line of John Freeman with Raymond James.

John Freeman - Raymond James

Very nice quarter. First question I had last year and just kind of ballpark is all I am looking for. What percentage of the wells that were drilled last year were drilled on undeveloped versus PUD? And then kind of along those lines, do we expect excluding obviously the Alabama shales any material change to that mix this year.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

John, let me give you the best answer I can, but I can't tell you the number of wells, but we did move a 100 b’s from the unproved category. I mean probable or possible into proved category this year. So, that gives you some flavor for that. I don’t have the exact split for you.

John Freeman - Raymond James

Okay. On the CapEx $310 million on the E&P side this year, what is the break down of that between like drilling and land etc?

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Okay, the biggest portion of that is going to be on drilling. We have got John some budgeted for land and exploration this year, but frankly that may be $10 million to $15 million of total budget, the rest is going to be spent on drilling.

John Freeman - Raymond James

Okay. I was just trying to see if the drop from '08 to '09 in CapEx is mainly just… the difference just being land and drilling is about the same, obviously again excluding Alabama.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Once you run into… again we are coming out with the '09 number here at the beginning of '08, and of course our plans can change as we move through the year, and we dramatically increased '08 once we got close to budget time by $100 million. I am not saying we are going to increase '09 by that amount again, but again we are projecting that number very early. Those numbers do tend to move upward, but it is going to be more of a drop in drilling activity than it is anything else.

John Freeman - Raymond James

Okay. And then last quarter, you all mentioned possibly picking up an extra rig in San Juan and Permian. Did that happen and then on those rigs you picked up, what were kind of the rates versus what your current fleet with that?

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

We did pick up both of those rigs and I think the rates John were very similar. I don't think that we got any kind of a discount and they certainly didn't cost more.

John Freeman - Raymond James

Okay, and then last question [inaudible] the increase in LOE guidance this year 221 versus 205, what is the main driver behind that increase?

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

I am going to let Chuck talk about that. Chuck.

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

John, when we were looking at that earlier, we thought that we would be off of 10% increases or double digit increases, and we would be kind of in the low to mid single digits, and actually most of the costs are up at that type of level. However, we have put in the 2008 budget some hopefully one-time unusual items both in the Permian basin and in the San Juan basin related to some significant casing type repairs in the Permian basin along with some compression type expenses in the San Juan basin. And those amounts kind of drive in the increase a little higher than we thought. If you would have normalized for those, the increase in per unit is about 5%.

John Freeman - Raymond James

Great, thanks again, good quarter guys.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you John.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]. You next question comes from the line of Carl Kirst with Credit Suisse.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Hi everybody. Actually, the last question was one of the things that I was trying to get a better sense of. I think you may have just answered it, because you said you're originally looking for something in the tune of around 10%. This is a kind of current cost structure guidance not withstanding as you're currently evaluating the market. If there was a bias, would you think that it's still tending to be more softer than not or do you kind of get a sense that, unit costs have kind of fallen as much as they're going to fall. We are basically just going to base out now.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Let me take a short at that Carl. [inaudible] my bias would be that they've sort of flattened down a little bit. You're going to see more ordinary increases, that is certainly our hope. There has been a little bit of downturn activity particularly on the rig front. As you know, there is much more availability now than there was before, and we were able to pick up those extra rigs and actually accelerate our program because of that availability. If I had talked to you 15 months ago, as I told you, I don’t know if could even get a rig if we wanted one. The things... things are starting to settle down, but I don't want to give you any kind of sense that we think prices are going to drop. But they... they have leveled out. Chuck, would you?

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. The only thing that I would add is, as we look out to 2009, we have of course built in some increases. But at the same time, we think we're going to be accelerating production up 6%. So, if you look at the per-unit in 2009 compared to 2008, it fairly flattens out, even though we did have this increase in 2008 over 2007.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Fair, fair enough. I appreciate that. If I can ask just a question on the reserves… you mentioned sort of a 115 b’s added organically. Can you break that out as far as... were there any revisions with that kind of extension?

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

We can do that. I think I've got the--

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

And I understand that the books are closed here. So, it's preliminary.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

I think I have got the proper detail here, and Johnny I'll ask you and Chuck. I think I'm looking at the right sched. We started the year at 1723. As I mentioned, we had purchases of 14.5. We had discoveries of 127. We had production of 98.6 and we expected. We have revisions of about 12 downward, we are barely minor. And so we plan to end the year at 1754. That map out of work, that might be up by 1, because I rounded a little bit.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

No, that's very helpful. It looks like… and I think you mentioned your opening commentary, the three year F&D, $2 is still very, very good numbers here. Should we look at 2007, F&D looks a little bit higher in 2007 as the single year. Should we look at that as a kind of a blip, where it might return or is this kind of sort of a new baseline maybe that we should be trending up to over the next three years?

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, it's probably a new... it's probably a new baseline, you know how it works.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Absolutely.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

It is hard to look at it in any one year Carl, because obviously we are bringing on PUDs that we have already got booked, and so we don't show additions for those, even though we are spending capital. So, if we make some acquisitions, I think that obviously is going to lower that amount, because as you know you then wind up booking proved reserves that you haven't spent capital on. So, it's a little bit of a tricky number. That is why we like to look at it on a three-year, five-year basis. But yes I would expect that it would be trending upward, if you're looking at just purely what capital did we spend and what did we move from the probably and possible categories going to be similar to what we're seeing here in '07.

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Carl, this is Chuck. To build on that just a little bit and then go back to John's question, we certainly did spend more money in 2007 related to proved undeveloped reserves, as then as we moved into 2008 and 2009, there will be more probable dollars being spent. And so all the things being equal, hopefully we'll have more reserve ads associated with that. So, it's not to say that… obviously the trend line has moved up, exactly where it stops I'm not sure. We have looked at and disclosed in the past and on a risk basis, our probables can be developed at $1.85 to $2. We'll have to relook at those numbers, but that's kind of where it was.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Chuck, you just caught my last question. So, that's... so right now though the numbers that you guys had put out in New York a few months back, that's kind of still sort of the range we should be looking at as far as developing the probables?

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Carl, that's correct. And Chuck is... I'm glad Chuck spoke up there. Chuck is absolutely right. These last two years we probably had more proved undeveloped that we were going after. And so that would tend to trend the cost a little bit higher. And as we move out in '09 and '10, one thing that may moderate that little bit is the fact that we're looking at developing a higher percentage of probable and possible reserves. So, that's a good point... so actually Carl what I said earlier about trending upward, we might be able to do something about that.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Great. I appreciate the color and congratulations on a great quarter.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]. You've a follow-up from the line of Carl Kirst with Credit Suisse.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Just as a quick follow-up. Kind of just more sort of maintenance numbers. You guys don't have PV-10 development cost handy by any chance, do you?

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

No, I have got an SEC PV-10 year-end reserve value. We thought that's what you wanted. Is that what you want?

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Well, I'm looking at kind of the assets within the PV-10, the estimation of future development costs as we kind of run around NAVs?

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

We don't have it yet.

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. We do have that color. Give me a second, we do have it.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Maybe, I will ask James another question in the meantime. I understand you can't really comment on Alabama shales. But from a strategy standpoint, should we continue to see you guys as you have for 2007 build your acreage position as you can... as you can find decent prices here, or should we expect perhaps a slight pause as we do the first few wells aggregate that data. And then figure out if you want to keep [inaudible] how should we think about that?

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Carl. That's an excellent question. We have got a few that we have been working on for some several months that were larger that may wrap up here in the next quarter or two. But in general, we have done a very good job of locking up the sizeable chunks. So, as we move forward, the acceleration that you've seen in the acreage, particularly the last four quarters should start to slow once we get past these few large ones wrapping the few large ones that we got left, if that makes sense. So, you're right, going forward if you look at where we'll be six months from now, I do think you won't see the same acceleration level as you have seen over the last 12 months, as we really have been kind of wrapping the position up.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

All right. Thank you.

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Carl, going to the future development cost, at the end of the quarter, the future development cost on the [inaudible] basis is $472 million.

Carl Kirst - Credit Suisse

Thanks so much guys.

Charles W. Porter, Jr. - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you Carl.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time.

James T. McManus, II - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Thank you Matthew. Last month Energen celebrated a milestone. It was 50 years ago that our company began trading on the New York stock exchange. The company's market cap time at the time was less than $27 million. Today Energen has a market cap more then $4.5 billion, recently was added to Standard & Poor’s mid-cap 400 index. When the company began trading on the New York stock exchange, it was a small single seat utility. 50 years later, Energen’s dominant business is oil and gas exploration and production. Energen resources not only makes up 85% of Energen’s earnings, it is among the top 20 independent oil and gas E&P companies in the US based on domestic reserves. Obviously we can't predict what the company will be like 50 years from now, but I can promise you this. Those of us here today are working hard to get things off to a great start. Again thank you for joining us for this conference call today and have a great day.

Operator

Thank you for attending today's Energen conference call. You may now disconnect.

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