ATP Oil & Gas (ATPG) may be setting an example for other oil and gas companies with its lawsuit for $68 million against the U.S. government.
Recently ATP elected to sue the U.S. government for $68 million based on the fact that the company has lost a substantial amount of money due to the suspension of its activities in the Gulf of Mexico following the oil spill in the area two years ago. The company claims that this suspension is illegal and hat it has caused significant damages to the company. Essentially what happened is that the government issued a ban on activities in the area following the spill. However, since then, the ban has been lifted. Yet the government is very slow to reissue permits to companies such as ATP in order to allow it to continue its activities in the area. In the words of ATP itself, the 'government "improperly and illegally" suspended all offshore drilling and "unlawfully delayed" the issuance of permits once the ban was lifted'. This resulted in significant financing costs due to the fact that the company had to finance other methods to make up for the lack of production in the Gulf of Mexico area.
ATP stock prices jumped by 30% following the news of the lawsuit. This to me indicates that the company's investors have faith in the company's chances of winning the lawsuit and that they are impressed with its efforts to get back what it is owed. This jump has also helped the stock return to its former glory as it declined by 29% this year. This amount, in fact, represents a record high for the company, a very impressive achievement indeed at this point in time.
Other factors may, of course, also be at work regarding this huge surge in ATP. For example the company also recently announced that it has resumed production at the ATP Titan platform. It is still most likely, however, that the major resurgence is due to the fact that the company is taking the initiative to get back what it lost.
At this point, we have not heard anything from governmental representatives regarding the lawsuit. A little more information on that front would be extremely useful in assessing the impact of the situation on the stock of ATP.
Presumably there are other oil and gas stocks in a similar position to ATP. Perhaps, then, this lawsuit is the first of many against the U.S. government regarding drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico that we will hear about in the weeks to come.
It seems that competitor Chevron (CVX) plans to sell more of its liquid natural gas resources to Tokyo Electric Power (a Japanese company, more frequently known as TEPCO). Essentially TEPCO will receive an additional 0.4 million tons per year. In addition to selling the actual gas the company has signed a deal with Tokyo Electric Power whereby the Japanese company will receive an equity stake in the Wheatstone project in Australia (incorporating "an 8 percent stake in the Wheatstone natural gas processing plant and a 10 percent interest in the Wheatstone gas field licenses").
A while ago competitor Exxon Mobil (XOM) made noise related to exploring for shale gas in Poland. However, in most recent news, the company announced that it has dropped those plans. This is probably for the best. The test wells that the company drilled were unsuccessful in that they did not display evidence for the existence of commercial quantities of gas. This could be seen as a significant blow for the company, but at least it identified the futility of continuing before it made a real loss on the project.
Competitor Chesapeake Energy (CHK) is about to announce its new chairman. This is something of a historic moment - the company has never changed leadership even once since Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward founded it 23 years ago. The announcement of a new chairman is imminent, but it seems to me that even though there are a number of very good candidates for the position out there, these candidates are not going to rush forward for the chance to bail the company out of its current unstable position. Chesapeake, to put it bluntly, is tainted and it will take a brave leader to turn it around.
BP (BP) has been named in a brand new lawsuit in Texas where 50,000 complainants claim that they have been made ill by a BP refinery in the area. The facts are the matter are: there was a deadly explosion at a BP refinery. This resulted in a emissions from the refinery which lasted for a period of 41 days. As a result of that in excess of 41 people claim that they are ill and that BP is to blame. The company simply cannot get back on its feet, as this represents another string of unfortunate events which will keep BP lawyers in court for some time.
To me, ATP appears to be on the road to recovery. As oil and gas stocks go at this point in time, ATP may be one of the best to buy into as I believe that things are looking good for its future. Of course a lot of its future success does hinge on the outcome of the lawsuit it has waged against the US government. All things considered, however, the lawsuit cannot be significantly harmful to the stock and it is an important milestone for ATP that it has increased by 30% recently. This is an achievement that should not be forgotten. I think that there is room for a great deal more growth in the weeks and months to come.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.