Stocks the Market Loves to Hate: Kodiak Oil & Gas

Not every investor has the same opinion, and as they say, it does take two to make a market. Sometimes investors are too focused on the headlines which forces them to stay on the sidelines. By digging a little deeper than just the headlines, we can sometimes find a real jewel, or at least a misunderstood stock that could be poised to outperform.

One company with headline numbers that don't paint a complete picture is Kodiak Oil & Gas (UNKNOWN: KOG.DL  ) . Friend and Motley Fool blogger, Bob Zimmerman, recently named Kodiak one of his "3 Stooges of the Oil and Gas Industry." He's not alone in his concerns -- investors had sold more than 10% of its shares short as of the end of last year. However, I think investors need to be mindful that beneath the headlines there's more to the story. 

Barely earning its keep?
In his article Bob pointed out two concerns he had with Kodiak Oil & Gas. First, he raised the red flag noting that the company is barely earning any money despite massive revenue growth while its executives, he thought, seemed to be cashing out big time. While I see what he's saying, I think he's missing the bigger picture here.

Take earnings: He noted that the company's revenue jumped 287% in 2011 yet earnings per share were just a penny in both the first and third quarters. What he's missing is that adjusted EBITDA actually skyrocketed 371% in FY11. The earnings per share number was affected by an unrealized loss which was related to a mark-to-market of a derivative investment that was used for commodity hedging. Utilizing hedging is important for smoothing out cash flow, but it can make the earnings look terrible. The numbers really look much more solid when taken in the context of how Kodiak hedges. 

Run for the hills
Bob also pointed out that insiders were big sellers over the past few months. Insider sales can look bad, but insiders sell for a variety of reasons, not necessarily because things are about to get bad. That's why I don't think recent insider sales at Kodiak should raise an alarm. The company's pay package for its executives is blended so that 26% of it is in the form of a salary that's not at risk, while the rest is at-risk based on management's performance in both the short and longer terms. Because longer-term, equity-based awards are at-risk, you can't always count it as a strike if an executive decides to take some of that at-risk money off the table.

Pay packages have come under increased scrutiny over the past few years with Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) and SandRidge Energy (UNKNOWN: SD.DL  ) being two of the most discussed. Sandridge's pay practices have brought about a proxy battle with one of its top shareholders as past missteps still yielded excessive compensation for management. Over at Chesapeake, CEO Aubrey McClendon will forgo his 2012 bonus while the board is looking to bring overall executive pay closer to the industry median level. Kodiak's pay practices in no way resemble the pay packages of these peers, and selling shares doesn't always portray a management team that's running for the hills.

Foolish bottom line
Of course there is more to this story than can be covered here. It's important for investors to dig deeper than the headlines and see what's really going on. While Kodiak might not be the best suited investment for your portfolio, that doesn't mean it's not a well-run company.

In fact, I think that Kodiak Oil & Gas is a dynamic growth story with great opportunities and also great risks. In order to find out if Kodiak is right for your portfolio let us help you with your due diligence by checking out our new premium report, which comes with a year of timely updates and analysis.

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Related Tickers

12/31/1969 7:00 PM
KOG.DL $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
Kodiak Oil and Gas CAPS Rating: *****
CHK $6.28 Down -0.34 -5.14%
Chesapeake Energy CAPS Rating: ***
SD.DL $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
SandRidge Energy CAPS Rating: ***