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All right, I'll admit it: I'm entertained by salacious energy industry gossip. The energy world is rife with all sorts of wheelings and dealings: mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures, and, my personal favorite, unsubstantiated buyout rumors. Sometimes it's flat-out impossible to keep track of everything that's going on, let alone take the time to separate the truth from the chaff. To that end, I've highlighted three energy stocks making smart moves to stay on top.
Houston-based Apache (NYSE: APA ) likes what it sees in the North Sea, purchasing ExxonMobil's (NYSE: XOM ) properties there for $1.75 billion. The fields currently produce both oil and natural gas, and at the end of 2010, reserves were estimated at 68 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe).
Apache CEO Steven Farris called the acquisition "the best North Sea assets we've evaluated since the Forties field in 2003." It's expected to increase Apache's North Sea production and proved reserves by 54% and 44%, respectively.
Apache also recently struck a joint-venture deal down under with Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) , Kuwait Foreign Petroleum, and Shell to develop an LNG export facility in Western Australia. It is Apache's first foray into the LNG business.
It's about time
Hyperdynamics (NYSE: HDY ) signed a contract with CGG Veritas (NYSE: CGV ) for a 3-D acquisition of about 2,500 miles of ocean floor off the coast of Guinea. The survey will utilize CGG Veritas' advanced technology to take a clearer and more detailed picture of the subsurface than a previous 2-D survey captured.
Hyperdynamics will also begin drilling off the coast of West Africa for the first time in early October, once the Jasper Explorer drill ship arrives from Singapore. A quick glance over at our free online investing community, Motley Fool CAPS, reveals that many investors have been waiting their whole lives for this moment. The area is no stranger to oil discoveries; only time will tell if Hyperdynamics can cash in.
Oil that doesn't flow
Imperial Oil (AMEX: IMO ) agreed to purchase four boilers from Babcock & Wilcox (NYSE: BWC ) for work in the Alberta oil sands. The boilers produce steam that is crucial for a variety of processes in Imperial plants, namely, steam-assisted gravity drainage. This technique is used frequently in oil sands to decrease viscosity in crude discovered in a state remarkably similar to Grandma Duffy's secret recipe for cold molasses. After the steam does its job, the oil flows more freely to wells that pump it to the surface.
ExxonMobil owns a 69.6% interest in Imperial, and together the companies are maximizing a variety of oil plays in Canada. According to Bloomberg, Imperial has the highest return on capital employed among its competitors in Canada, and it's been that way for the last five years. ROCE is essentially a company's earnings before interest and tax, divided by net assets. The metric measures a company's efficiency and profitability in regards to its capital investments, something incredibly important in the oil and gas business.
The energy industry is one that must be monitored closely. An investor's best bet is to keep an eye on press releases and conference calls, making note of what moves companies are making and the justification CEOs give for those moves. Internet-based tools like Twitter and My Watchlist are also great ways to stay informed on company updates and analysis.