Which New Oil & Gas Project Is Most Promising?

Includes: APC, ATPAQ, BP, CVX, XOM
by: Cris Frangold

A number of the major players in the oil and gas arena are actively involved in new projects, some of which will have major effects on bottom lines. Which project will be enough to boost its company during a down year for the industry (though things have heated up in July)?

Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) announced good news, which will lead to a substantial increase in production. With oil prices up, this makes Exxon my buy recommendation for now. Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) recently saw a huge boost in trading, and while it has supreme confidence in itself, I am hesitant it can reach the numbers it is hoping for. ATP Oil & Gas (ATPG) trumpeted its own project progression, and it rightfully excited no one. BP (NYSE:BP) has a project threatening to be derailed, which makes more bad news for it. Chevron (NYSE:CVX) has several new projects gaining in the pipeline, and should aggressively continue its already successful year.

Exxon Mobil recently announced that its subsidiary, Esso Exploration Angola, has finally begun production from Kizomba Satellites Phase 1 project offshore Angola. Eventually the project should provide up to 100 thousand barrels of oil per day. Ultimately, there's about $1.5 billion invested in the project, so getting production under way is a big deal. This is obviously great news, and Exxon already has some great reasons to buy. Its P/E ratio is 15% below the stock's five-year averages, and features a return on equity of a 25%. Of course, nothing may be better news than the rise in oil prices (futures are near $96.68 after dropping down recently) - and upping production by 100 thousand barrels per day would really give revenue a boost. I believe Exxon is in strong position, and the Kizoma Satellites project should be a major cash cow.

Anadarko recently sold a huge stake in its Lucius project to a buyer that has not yet been disclosed. This may not be a bad idea as the sale amount, namely $556 million, will help the oil and gas company to continue funding the project from here on out. It will also help fund spent like the one Anadarko recently made in the Republic of Ghana. Anadarko has an 18% working interest in the endeavor, but it still represents a victory after the company spent $385 million in 1Q on advancing exploration activities. The projects may account for the remarkable amount of action Anadarko's stock has seen recently, though that could also have to do with its offer for January 2013 options. Anadarko showed confidence it will keep increasing in the next two quarters (with hopes of reaching a $95 price target).

ATP has made quite a big deal lately about the discoveries that it has made off the coast of Israel. However, although the small time shareholders seem excited by this, I don't see a lot of marked impact on the company's stock coming from this. As one source puts it "the bond market does not seem to care about this discovery." Since the discovery bonds, ATP bonds have traded steadily at around $50. In addition, last month, the stock price declined about 30%. ATP saw operating margins reach around 50% in 4Q 2011, and since has dropped back down near 0. Its gross profit continues to slip and its net income came out to -$138 million last quarter. With earnings per share in the negative $5 range, there's not a lot to like here, whether ATP thinks so or not.

One of BP's projects is under the threat of being derailed as a result of its stand-off with its Russian partners. The project that the company is effectively excluding itself form due to this stand-off is the "possible extension of the Nord Stream gas pipeline to send Russian gas to the UK." Reports have it that the project may be derailed by an amount of nearly 4%. BP continues to look poor. Revenue estimates are down 11% for the 2Q (from 2011 numbers) and the outlook for 3Q is even worse. Profit margins are still near 0%. Though BP still offers a decent dividend yield of 4.5%, I don't recommend BP for now.

Lastly, Chevron's subsidiary in the UK has "entered front-end engineering and design (FEED) on the Rosebank oil and gas project in the West of Shetland region". Additionally, it announced a new gas find off the western coast of Australia. Chevron has a 47.3% interest in the new find, and with gas prices on the rise again, new finds are even more valuable. Chevron's price had dipped below $100 last month, but it's back over $111 and climbing. It recently encountered an eight day consecutive growth period, which should signal some serious excitement here. Chevron will keep going up, on the back of new projects, and you will want to get in now before the price makes it overvalued. With a $13.43 trailing EPS and a dividend of 3.20%, there's too much to be had here to pass up.

Chevron's got the momentum right now and I suggest getting on board. I think Exxon will be next and would recommend buying into that as soon as possible, as well. Both will reward with dividends and healthy earnings per share numbers. Anadarko could be a wild card for now and BP and ATP can be avoided altogether.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.