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Bakken Could Script a Turnaround for Abraxas

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Last August, I spoke about why San Antonio-based Abraxas Petroleum (Nasdaq: AXAS  ) looked weak. Uncertainty pertaining to the company's operating cash flows from production problems was the biggest concern, which I believed was an obstacle to paying off debt.

Although the article ruffled a few feathers, the fact was that growth prospects weren't very convincing, even though the company holds acreages in various shale plays. However, all this may be changing, with management deciding to allot 75% of its 2012 capital budget to develop its Bakken/Three Forks and the Niobrara holdings.

Bakken to play savior?
Out of a total $70 million, the Bakken/Three Forks holdings have been allotted a lion's share. The company plans to develop 20 gross wells (six net wells) in 2012, which should have a major impact on production volumes. Currently, Abraxas operates eight wells here.

It shouldn't really come as a surprise that I'm bullish about the Bakken. I think these reserves can transform smaller independent upstream companies. One of the leading examples: the once struggling Kodiak Oil & Gas (NYSE: KOG  ) . Till about 15 months ago, the Denver-based independent exploration and production company was consistently posting operating losses, until it boosted production from its Williston Basin reserves. As a result, revenues shot up. There's a chance that Kodiak could still be undervalued, given that it can further ramp up production in the Bakken. Another Bakken player, Northern Oil & Gas (NYSE: NOG  ) , has looked promising as well. This company has an unconventional business model, that of holding non-operating interests, but it has met with relative success. Last year, total production more than doubled over 2010 levels.

I'm not saying Abraxas is on the same road to success, and I remained concerned over its relative a truck load of debt. But total debt has dropped 11% in 2011 from the previous year. And management's move to focus solely on the Bakken reserves is a step in the right direction to me.

Foolish bottom line
For Abraxas, boosting production is the only way to increase cash flows. And the company seems to be on track. In addition, management is trying to increase the percentage proportion of liquids (crude oil and natural gas liquid) production, which should again positively affect cash flows. This year holds out a lot of hope for the company. Stay abreast of the latest news on Abraxas Petroleum by adding the company to your personalized Watchlist. It's free!

And if you're looking for more ideas, The Motley Fool has created a new special oil report titled "3 Stocks for $100 Oil," which you can download today -- and it's free, too.

Fool contributor Isac Simon owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2012, at 10:36 AM, tanktexan wrote:

    kog is the most overpriced company in the bakken. The only way it generates cash flow is by diluting investors with no less than 5 secondary offerings.

    You fail miserably in your so called analysis. But we knew that already.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2012, at 10:52 AM, tanktexan wrote:

    Oh yeah, you also failed (as usual) to mention the other upside events going on with AXAS. Production has just been boosted to nearly 5,000 boepd. That's a 1,000 boepd increase or a boost of 20% of total production.

    Nor did you mention that AXAS will be selling the Eagleford properties which will cause them to debt free or nearly debt free in the June timeframe.

    AXAS is very undervalued right here. You may want to consider writing about the whole picture instead of part of the picture.

    Are you being paid by a hedging company?

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2012, at 11:29 AM, tanktexan wrote:

    Guess the fool can't handle the truth about it's "so called" writers/analysis. I provided a detailed analysis on AXAS only to have it scrubbed by the scum who think "thefool" is a legitmate investors resources.

    Get real.

  • Report this Comment On April 09, 2012, at 11:00 AM, foolgabby wrote:

    Can I offer you a kleenex, friend?

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