I like discovering gems out of the conventional energy patch. This is how I spotted Mart Resources (OTCPK:MAUXF), which operates in Nigeria, six months ago. Some investors rejected Nigeria the same way they also rejected Africa Oil (OTCPK:AOIFF), which operates in Kenya, Somalia, Mali and Ethiopia. All these countries (Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Mali) are in a really turbulent mode with the unpredictable social unrest to be very likely any time.
However, If a serious investor analyzes the situation closely he will conclude that the odds of a lasting impact on the operations of a company is zero as the companies can repair damaged pipelines and wait out road closures. The oil in the ground will still be there. After Africa Oil hit some great wells and several majors started to move to the area with Marathon Oil (MRO) to be one of them, these investors would have loved to turn back the time and had bought Africa Oil. I urge all to check the performance of Africa Oil and Mart Resources during the last 6 months.
I have also steered clear from the Bakken formation of North Dakota as the companies there have hit very high valuations which are not supported by the fundamentals. I believe the upside potential of companies like Kodiak Oil and Gas (KOG), Oasis Petroleum (OAS), Continental Resources (CLR), Northern Oil and Gas (NOG), Triangle Petroleum (TPLM), Voyager Oil and Gas (VOG) is very limited at their current valuations ($140,000 /boepd and higher) while they capture a tremendous downside risk and a strong disappointment factor if the drilling results diverge from the current extremely inflated expectations.
Compton Petroleum (OTC:CMZPF) gave all its 79,000 net acres Montana Bakken land for free actually just two weeks ago when It was sold to MFC Industrial. It seems Compton management did not believe the upside potential of their Bakken land although this land is adjacent to several other Bakken-operating companies. That being said, It is not prudent for me to chase the 10%-20% upside (if any) in the North Dakota Bakken companies while there are other companies with a 500% upside potential.
This is why I picked Colombia, which seems to be the next hot oil region worldwide.
Colombia is better, more stable and more investment-friendly than the aforementioned African countries, of course. So we get a pass on this criteria. Take a look at this very interesting piece of information from 5 years ago, when things were considerably worse than today. This excerpt is from the 2007 Annual Report For Colombian focused Petrominerales (OTCPK:PMGLF):
In the globalized world of international oil and gas investment, the concept of political risk is sometimes misunderstood. When we speak of true political risk from Petrominerales perspective, we are talking about the possibility that we might experience: expropriation or creeping expropriation of our assets; unilateral or confiscatory changes to our contracts; unilateral or confiscatory changes to the existing fiscal regime (typically increases in taxes and royalties payable); restrictions on the flow of capital or the conversion of local currency; confiscation of our assets; or political violence, or incarceration being threatened against our employees.
The actual circumstances we have experienced in Colombia vary widely from opinions freely expressed by "experts", investment advisors or potential investors regarding the climate for political risk in Colombia. The Colombian government's Energy Ministry can point to a spotless record of respect for the sanctity of contracts and a more than 50-year history of attracting and respecting international investment without creating a single incident of true political risk. Many neighbouring countries in Latin America have chosen to take a more interventionist route in the oil and gas industry, but Colombia proudly stands out as a true partner with an outstanding track record. Ironically, many of our shareholders cannot look to their own governments with the same level of confidence that we have in Colombia. [emphasis added]
Add on this 2007-dated piece of information what HSBC says to its clients in 2012:
The two of them, Colombia and Peru, are extremely attractive markets [that] have gone through political and economic turnarounds," said Christian Deseglise, who heads sales in the Americas at HSBC Global Asset Management. "They offer a very good macroeconomic story and hot territories where infrastructure, commodities and investments are potentially huge," he said. "It's a fascinating part of the world.
The Colombian Government has pursued a gradual deregulation of the economy and a more liberalized free-market approach being implemented. This approach has seen foreign direct investment (FDI) in Colombia rapidly increase and for the first quarter 2012 when, compared to the same period last year, it is up by 30%. The government's liberalized economic policy is illustrated by the country having one of the lowest numbers of economic protectionist measures in place in Latin America. As measured by Global Trade Alerts, Colombia has just 7 protectionist measures, compared to Brazil's 88.
Colombia has proven oil reserves of 2.3 billion barrels located in six major basins across the country. These are the Eastern Llanos, Putumayo-Caguan, Middle Magdalena, Upper Magdalena, Catatumbo and Eastern Cordillera basins. What Colombia offers is an ideal scenario for oil and gas exploration. That scenario is low political risk combined with extremely underexplored acreage in a highly prospective oil region. Petrominerales management has frequently stated that the geology in Colombia is very similar to the geology of Alberta. The key difference is that while Alberta and the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin has had 500,000 wells drilled into it Colombia has only had 10,000. There is a lot of oil in Colombia waiting to be discovered.
This is why major foreign players such as Shell Oil (RDS.A), Ecopetrol (EC), Petrobras (PBR), Chevron (CVX), Lewis Energy, and others are also positioned in Colombia due to its huge, unconventional shale oil potential. Recently Exxon Mobil (XOM), the world`s largest oil and gas company, acquired interests in Colombia too.
The new hot oil spot of Colombia has also been identified by several drillers who have created subsidiaries there with growing operations. To name a few, Weatherford (WFT), Superior Energy Services (SPN), Calfrac (OTCPK:CFWFF), Schlumberger (SLB), Halliburton (HAL) and Nabors Industries (NBR).
That being said, I like C&C Energia that trade at the main Toronto Board under the ticker CZE or CNCEF.PK and became public in 2010 thru an IPO. So C&C Energia has 8 working blocks in the most oily areas of Colombia namely Llianos, Putumayo and Magdalena and an extensive low risk land which measures 500,000+ net acres.
C&C Energia has 100% oil production that grows consistently year over year and it does not have the serious production growth problems of Petrominerales that have impacted its price so dramatically.
It is very important to note that the company sells at a small discount to brent, and they do not sell at the lower WTI or Edmonton price. The company is very profitable, it has zero debt and it is cash rich with $95M cash.
The Enterprise Value is $300M currently, and eventually C&C Energia trade as low as $25,000/bbld! Yes, you read correctly. This is $25,000/bbld for 100% oil production which is being sold at almost brent price. This valuation is less than half the $/boepd valuation of the Colombian peers Gran Tierra (GTE), Pacific Rubiales (OTCPK:PEGFF) and Petrominerales.
The annualized funds from operations for 2012 will be around $170 - 180M so the company trade 2 times its annual FFO. This is another metric to be excited about, as Gran Tierra trade about 4 times the annualized FFO and Pacific Rubiales trade about 5 times the annualized FFO.
In addition, C&C Energia (OTC:CNCEF) annual capex is funded entirely from the annual funds from operations so the company will not load any debt in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, it has room for growth initiatives, acquisitions included. However I believe C&C Energia is an acquisition target as the M&A is getting hot in Colombia lately driven by the domestic major players as Ecopetrol, Pacific Rubiales and Gran Tierra.
To be specific, Pacific Rubiales acquired the junior Petromagdalena a few weeks ago, paying $60,000/boepd (95% oil and 5% nat gas) despite the fact that Petromagdalena (OTC:ALNGF) has been losing money every quarter.
Gran Tierra acquired Petrolifera in 2011 paying $195M, which is a $60,000/boepd for Petrolifera's 81% oil and 19% nat gas production. Gran Tierra again acquired Toronto-traded Solana Resources paying $675M which was a $200,000/boepd valuation for Solana's 90% light oil and 10% nat gas production. Solana Resources was debt free same like C&C Energia.
Petrominerales has serious production growth problems the last two years, so C&C Energia could be a solution to Petrominerales' growth problem, although this sounds speculative.
C&C Energia has a very experienced management team, as the President and CEO of C&C Energia has spent most of his career in BP (BP), the CFO has spent most of his career in Nexen (NXY), which was acquired by the Chinese CNOOC (CEO) recently, and the Executive VP of Explorations has spent most of his career in the Colombian subsidiary of ConocoPhillips (COP).