An oil price recovery is prompting lenders to extend credit lines for the first time in two years. And even a small increase (Reuters estimates an average of 5%) has a number of producers including Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD -1.8%), Diamondback Energy (FANG -0.9%) and RSP Permian (RSPP -1.3%) boosting expenditure forecasts for the coming year.
Raymond James expects oil and gas producers with a North American focus to increase capital investment by 30% in 2017.
"The 'animal spirits' seem to be coming back to the exploration and production market, albeit slowly," said analyst Kyle Owusu after the past three industry reviews saw available credit cut by 40%.
While some companies are seeing big expansions in their borrowing base -- Rice Energy's (RICE -0.6%) was boosted to $1.45B from $1B after it bought Vantage Energy -- others go a different route (Carrizo (CRZO -3.1%) has kept its credit line steady at $600M and sold $225M in stock to fund land buys).
Carrizo Oil & Gas (NASDAQ:CRZO) -1% AH after agreeing to acquire Eagle Ford Shale properties from Sanchez Energy (NYSE:SN) for $181M.
The deal includes ~15K net bolt-on acres located primarily in the volatile oil window of the Eagle Ford Shale, with estimated net production during September of ~3,100 boe/day (61% oil) from 93 net wells; following the closing of the deal, CRZO will hold more than 100K net acres in the Eagle Ford.
CRZO also provides Q3 production guidance of 40,762 boe/day, +13% Y/Y, primarily due to stronger than expected results from its Eagle Ford and Delaware Basin assets.
To help fund the deal, CRZO launches a 5M-share public offering, with an underwriters option to purchase up to an additional 750K common shares.
A clear benefit of the price cycle has been the vastly improved efficiency and productivity of shale, but shale "may ultimately be too productive as WTI approaches $70/bbl," the firm says as it lowers its long-term WTI forecast to $62.50/bbl from $67.50.
Credit Suisse says names that continue to demonstrate resource improvement at the low-end of the cost curve, namely in the Permian and STACK plays, remain attractive, such as Concho Resources (NYSE:CXO), Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN), Newfield Exploration (NYSE:NFX) and Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD).
The firm downgrades Carrizo Oil & Gas (NASDAQ:CRZO) and Sanchez Energy (NYSE:SN) to Neutral from Outperform, and Laredo Petroleum (NYSE:LPI) to Underperform from Neutral, following relative outperformance vs. peers.
Earlier fears that some energy companies might not be able to secure new lines of credit because of the collapse in oil prices seem to be a thing of the past; in fact, banks are willing to lend but energy companies do not seem particularly eager to borrow, says Stifel's Daniel Guffy and his analyst team.
Banks have sought to work through the debt challenges in the energy end markets, as forcing a bankruptcy risks a liquidation that would not come close to recovering the loan value; banks seem willing to lend again as the fall redetermination begins, but E&P companies have little appetite to add leverage, although this could shift as E&P fundamentals improve, Stifel says.
Companies in Stifel's coverage that have chosen to take a defensive posture by reigning in capex and curbing growth to protect balance sheets and/or preserve liquidity include Buy-rated CRZO, EGN, NFX and XEC, as well as Hold-rated CLR, COG, CRK and PQ.
Oil and natural gas explorers escape a vote in Colorado that could have severely limited drilling in the state, as two measures that would have allowed local communities to ban hydraulic fracturing fail to garner enough support for the November ballot.
A proposal that would have restricted drilling near homes fell ~21K valid signatures short of the total needed to qualify for a ballot vote, and a measure allowing local governments to ban fracking also failed to attract enough signatures, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
Colorado's top producers include Anadarko Petroleum (APC +1.3%), Encana (ECA +0.4%), Noble Energy (NBL +1.4%), PDC Energy (PDCE +1.6%), Whiting Petroleum (WLL +1.9%), Bill Barrett (BBG +5.3%), Carrizo Oil and Gas (CRZO +2.2%) and Synergy Resources (SYRG +5.2%).
Environmental groups in Colorado say they have collected enough signatures to add proposed anti-fracking initiatives to the November election ballot, pending final validation by the Secretary of State's office.
One of the initiatives would strengthen the state's setback rules, requiring new oil and gas development facilities to be located at least 2,500 ft. from occupied structures or areas such as parks, while the second would transfer regulatory control of new oil and gas development to local governments.
Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC), Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL) and Whiting Petroleum (NYSE:WLL) hold the greatest net acreage in Colorado's DJ Basin; other companies with DJ exposure include Synergy Resources (NYSEMKT:SYRG), PDC Energy (NASDAQ:PDCE), Bonanza Creek Energy (NYSE:BCEI), Bill Barrett (NYSE:BBG), and Carrizo Oil and Gas (NASDAQ:CRZO).
Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD +0.1%), EP Energy (EPE +0.9%), Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO +2.8%), Sanchez Energy (SN +2.5%) and Synergy Resources (SYRG -0.1%) are all upgraded to Buy at KLR Group in advance of Q2 earnings reports.
At the same time, the firm downgrades Devon Energy (DVN -0.4%), Consol Energy (CNX -1.3%) and Continental Resources (CLR +0.4%) to Accumulate from Buy on valuation given their substantial share price appreciation over the past four months.
KLR expects the U.S. E&P industry's cost intensity to decline another 10% this year as capital spending is rationalized another 45%, but it anticipates spending ultimately will increase ~70% "assuming a substantive recovery in commodity prices."
The firm's new stock price targets are $218 for PXD, $6.50 for EPE, $49 for CRZO, $9 for SN, $9 for SYRG, $44 for DVN, $20 for CNX and $54 for CLR.
Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO +8.2%) is sharply higher after Stifel initiates coverage with a Buy rating and $48 price target, believing CRZO holds significant optionality and flexibility should it decide to ramp drilling and/or completion operations in H2 201616 and/or 2017.
Stifel notes that 90% of CRZO's 2016 budget focused on the company's largely contiguous 88K net Eagle Ford acres, much of which has existing infrastructure, as well as CRZO's planned 30-plus well DUC inventory at year-end 2016.
The firm also likes CRZO's 22K net acre position in the highly desired and hotly contested Delaware Basin, where economics rival core Eagle Ford returns, and management's intentions to build scale in the emerging play.
Western Colorado has 40x more natural gas than previously thought, potentially making it the second-largest formation in the U.S., according to a new estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Mancos Shale formation in Colorado’s Piceance Basin holds ~66.3T cf of gas, up from just 1.6T estimated in 2003, the USGS says, and the revision puts the basin second only to the Marcellus Shale in terms of the largest total gas reserves in the U.S.
Current prices of ~$2/MMBtu are considered too low for companies to begin drilling to any large extent; companies likely would begin drilling if prices reached $3.50/MMBtu, says David Ludlam of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Seaport Global Securities upgrades a half-dozen energy E&P stocks - and downgrades two others - even after the group has rallied YTD, saying it is "willing to overlook higher leverage as long as the operational trajectory is notably improving."
Noble Energy (NBL +4.2%) and Eclipse Resources (ECR +5.5%) are upgraded to Buy from Neutral, as NBL boasts "strong growth and cheap valuation relative to peers" and ERC is "among the cheapest NE gas names while offering good compression in out-year multiples."
Seaport hikes Synergy Resources (SYRG +2.4%) to Buy from Accumulate thanks to "top-tier growth potential at >$50 oil."
Upgraded to Accumulate from Neutral are Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO +4.3%), as “strong Eagle Ford returns justify return to growth,” and Concho Resources (CXO +4.6%), with “high-quality exposure to the Delaware Basin poised to garner further credit."
The firm raises WPX Energy (WPX +0.2%) to Neutral from Sell, citing “leverage burden eased with equity, higher commodity price deck assumptions, recent operational progress."
However, Oasis Petroleum (OAS +0.7%) is downgraded to Neutral from Buy as “NAV valuation gap has closed after a 54% move since our March 30 report," and Petroquest Energy (PQ +1.3%) is cut to Accumulate from Buy as “risk/reward upside has tempered" following a 67% move since March 30.