An International Oil Opportunity for the Patient

In May of 2009, I laid out the case for Talisman Energy (NYSE: TLM  ) . Since that time, the shares have barely budged. Meanwhile, EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG  ) , Apache (NYSE: APA  ) , and even the S&P 500 have delivered handsome returns. So what has gone awry at Talisman?

Nothing, actually. The company is doing exactly what it said it would do: growing unconventional gas production, shedding non-core assets by the boatload, and focusing on the exploration portfolio. Talisman's Marcellus shale operations are booming, with production up 68% from the first quarter. Meanwhile, the company completed $1.3 billion in Canadian dollars in North American asset sales and filled out its exploration acreage in key focus areas including Indonesia and Colombia.

So why can't investors get excited about this story? I can think of a few reasons.

One is that Talisman is not yet demonstrating significant production growth. Adjusted for asset sales, underlying growth was only 2% in the latest quarter. That's more reminiscent of a major like ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) or Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) than a nimble independent, which should be able to generate much stronger growth. Talisman is talking about 5% to 10% growth next year, which should catch more investor interest.

Another reason that 2010 is proving a bit of a snooze for Talisman is that its exploration spending is largely weighted to land and seismic data acquisitions this year. Talisman is laying the groundwork for a busier year with the drill bit in 2011. A handful of discoveries next year would do a lot to jolt investors out of their slumber.

Talisman's transformation is hidden in plain sight. All the company has to do is continue executing on its plan, and Mr. Market will eventually stop ignoring the company. This recognition is taking longer than I originally expected, but I believe patience will ultimately be rewarded.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his Motley Fool CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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