2012 Preview: SandRidge Energy

With 2011 almost in the rearview mirror, many investors start to mull over their portfolios and ask what comes next. It's a fair question, and the answers we find are really the crux of great investing. The ability to identify value before the market has already baked expectations into the stock price is what distinguishes the successful investor.

With that, let's take a look at SandRidge Energy (NYSE: SD  ) . The Oklahoma-based company, run by Chesapeake Energy co-founder Tom Ward, focuses on the exploration and production of domestic oil and natural gas. The current U.S. energy boom has got a lot of investors thinking about SandRidge.

Stats for SandRidge Energy

Year-to-Date Stock Return 11.22%
Market Cap $3.27 billion
Revenue, Trailing 12 Months $1.33 billion
Current Price $8.17
52-Week High $13.34
52-Week Low $4.55
CAPS Rating (out of 5) *****

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Y Charts, and Motley Fool CAPS.

A look backward
SandRidge spun off two royalty trusts this year, SandRidge Mississippian Trust I (NYSE: SDT  ) and SandRidge Permian Trust (NYSE: PER  ) . While the trusts have performed well, the parent company had more of an up-and-down year.

The stock spent much of the year up significantly before plummeting in August. Shares remained low until just last week when SandRidge announced a joint venture in the Mississippi Lime with Spain's Repsol. The deal generates $1 billion for SandRidge in cash and drilling costs.

An eye on the future
The Repsol deal is the second joint venture in the Mississippian play that SandRidge is dominating right now, and the company is likely looking for a third. CEO Ward has stated that the company would be "most comfortable" operating 1 million acres -- 500,000 less than it possesses currently.

Including the Repsol deal, SandRidge has sold 500,000 acres already, to the tune of $1.83 billion. If it could generate another $1.83 billion in divestitures, it would go a long way toward boosting earnings and reducing debt, something analysts and investors are wary of right now.

On the production side, SandRidge plans to decrease its rig count in the underperforming Central Basin and increase its rig count in the thriving Mississippi play. The company set production guidance for 2012 at 27.7 million barrels of oil equivalent, specifically 16 MMBbls of oil and 70 billion cubic feet of gas.

Bottom line
SandRidge's position in the Mississippi Lime is unrivaled right now. The play has been compared to the booming Bakken Shale in North Dakota, but with better economics and efficiency. Ward estimates that SandRidge wells are capable of producing between 300,000 and 500,000 boe. If the company can find another buyer for those 500,000 acres in question, 2012 should be a very good year for SandRidge Energy.

Debt can be a scary thing, however. Investors who are still on the fence about SandRidge Energy might instead want to check out what Fool analysts call "the only energy stock you'll ever need."

Fool contributor Aimee Duffy doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. If you have the energy, check out what she's keeping an eye on by following her on Twitter, where she goes by @TMFDuffy.

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