Note: A previous version of this story contained inaccurate statements regarding Chesapeake. Those have been removed.
With a market cap of $33.86 billion, Apache (NYSE:APA) continues to build the base of an empire. The company recently announced the awarding of three major contracts for the Julimar Development Project in Western Australia increasing its holdings there under its subsidiary, Apache Energy Limited.
This is just one example of how Apache is aggressively exploring new plays for greater returns. The company is also looking to divest at least 20% of its stake in the Kitimat liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project. This is a $15 billion project that Apache currently has the largest share of a partnership, 40%, with EOG Resources, Inc. (NYSE:EOG), with 30%, and Encana (NYSE:ECA), with also 30%. EOG Resources currently has a market cap of $30.7 billion. The company has been experiencing some success in the Bakken Shale and Eagle Ford Shale oil plays.
Apache's interest in selling a portion of its share of the Kitimat project is typical of the company as it historical growth through the acquisition and development of existing reserves. Apache is always stretching and reaching for new plays that will bring both oil and gas to bear fruit for the company and investors. Because of its tenacity for preserving as well as being in sound financial shape, I believe this company to be a buy now for spectacular growth in the future.
Apache's acquiring personality keeps it searching and buying smart plays. One major recent asset purchase was with BP (NYSE:BP), which was a $7 billion deal for acreage and infrastructure in the Permian Basin of West Texas, New Mexico, Egypt, and some upstream natural gas assets in Alberta and British Columbia. Apache got a bargain price because BP is still selling off assets to keep up with rising lawsuit and litigation costs, as well as imposed fines. BP seems to have rebounded nicely and is getting back on track for future banner years. Apache also bought Devon Energy's (NYSE:DVN) shelf assets in the Gulf of Mexico for $1.05 billion. The purchase covered 158 blocks off the coast of Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, and the areas are expected to produce 9,500 barrels of oil and natural-gas liquids, and 55 million cubic feet of gas per day.
Devon Energy recently announced a $1.4 billion joint venture with Japan's Sumitomo. Sumitomo will invest $1.4 billion to get 30% of Devon's interest in approximately 650,000 net acres in the Cline Shale and Midland-Wolfcamp Shale. Then there is the deal Apache made with Mariner Energy that consisted of a $4.3 billion merger which added substantial capacity to Apache's Gulf operations and has made the company a leader in the Gulf of Mexico. The beauty of this acquisition was the deepwater Gulf of Mexico portfolio of nearly 100 lease blocks, seven discoveries in development and more than 50 prospects. These hits just keep on coming. Recently, the company acquired Cordillera Energy Partners for $2.3 billion, adding approximately 72 million boe in the Anadarko Basin of Texas and Oklahoma, a very profitable area.
But it is not all through acquisitions that Apache finds its success. The company recently announced that an offshore well in Kenya had discovered gas. The Mbawa 1 offshore exploration well reached a total depth of 10,335 feet encountered approximately 52 net meters (170 feet) of natural gas pay in three zones. The good news regarding the new three major contracts for the Julimar Development Project is just another example of Apache's reach. According to the terms of the agreement, Apache Julimar Pty Ltd and KUFPEC Australia (Julimar) Pty Ltd will develop subsea facilities to supply gas from its Julimar Development Project (JDP) into the Wheatstone LNG Project. Apache is the operator and has a 65% interest in the project. In the Chevron-operated Wheatstone Project at Ashburton North, 12 kilometers west of Onslow in Western Australia, Apache has a 13% working interest under development. Apache, under the JDP agreement, is expected to generate average net sales of about 140 million cubic fee per day (MMcfd) of LNG for world oil markets, 22 MMcfd of sales gas into the domestic market, and 3,250 barrels of condensate per day. The foundational phase of the project will include two LNG trains with a combined capacity of 8.9 million tons per annum (MTPA) and a domestic gas plant.
Apache reported second quarter 2012 earnings of 2.07 per share, and had second quarter 2012 revenues of $3.97 billion. Year-on-Buy Tyear Apache grew revenues 39.66% from $12.09 billion to $16.89 billion while net income improved 51.19% from $3.03 billion to $4.58 billion. Currently, the company's stock price is actually down about 4%. This combined with the company's 1.98 price-to-sales ratio, which is in line with today's prevailing market multiples, and the fact that its shares are trading at an attractive 10.37 price-to-earnings ratio, the company is looking even more attractive. The company is not overleveraged with a reasonable 0.33 debt-to-equity ratio. Additionally, the Board of Directors of the company has declared regular cash dividends on the company's common shares and 6% Mandatory Convertible Preferred Stock, Series D.
With smart acquisitions, solid financial footing, and success in worldwide plays, I believe Apache is a smart buy at current price levels.
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.