When I started writing this article SandRidge Energy's (NYSE: SD ) stock had closed just one penny below $6 per share. It's a level the stock hasn't seen since February. The stock has climbed nearly 30% off 2013 lows seen this past April. While in obvious hindsight those lows were the best price to buy, will we look back at today and think that just under $6 was also a good price?
I ask this question because a few weeks ago I had my written puts on SandRidge expire with only income as a consolation. It was part of a trade that saw me buying shares for half of my intended allocation and writing puts in hopes of buying the rest of my desired allocation even cheaper. I can't complain about that trade as those puts earned 11.4% on the capital at risk in less than four months. Further, the shares I bought are up more than 18% since I bought them. I certainly have reason to celebrate.
That said, I still don't own as much of SandRidge as I'd like. It's a company I know inside and out. I like the changes it has made to refocus business on its core acres and I think the new management team is up to the task of taking SandRidge to the next level. That's why I believe there is a lot of value still left in SandRidge even as its stock has been moving higher.
I'm not alone. Hedge fund billionaire Leon Cooperman estimates SandRidge could be worth as much as $10 a share. That's the call he made earlier this year when he named it one of his Top 10 stock ideas. At the time he called it a "potential double" and noted that the stock had the best risk reward of his Top 10.
I see two potential catalysts unlocking the value in SandRidge that Cooperman sees. First, it could sell itself, which would unlock immediate value. In fact, there are rumors that Spain's Repsol is on the hunt for a North American oil producer. The company is looking to spend up to $10 billion on a deal. SandRidge could make an appealing target for many reasons, including the fact that Repsol already has a $1 billion joint venture with the company in the Mississippian. Some analysts have noted that a $9 purchase price would be in line with what Repsol is willing to spend and would likely be a price SandRidge's board and investors would be prepared to accept.
Outside of a quick sale to Repsol, however, I don't see too many other buyers. Right now SandRidge is one of the few companies having success in the Mississippian. Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN ) is one of those peers that sees some promise as it drills 350 wells in the play this year. However, it's also looking at the deeper Woodford Shale and sees the potential for 1,000 future wells there. Furthermore, a lot of its attention is in using the Permian Basin to grow its oil production. Devon just doesn't need to buy SandRidge as it has plenty of growth within its own portfolio.
In addition, oil major Shell (NYSE: RDS-A ) recently announced that it was putting its entire Mississippian acreage in Kansas up for sale. It wasn't earning the returns it had been seeking. Moves like that leave few deep-pocketed buyers lining up to bid on SandRidge.
That's why I don't think a sale of SandRidge is probable just yet. In fact, it likely wouldn't be in the best interests of investors. The company is just now really starting to deliver solid results out of the Mississippian. Well costs were down to just $2.95 million per well last quarter. Initial production at the wells drilled last quarter was up 14%, meaning the company is starting to get a quicker payback on its wells. Finally, the company is focusing on capital efficiency and that's just starting to show up in its results. I'd much rather see the company sell high in the future after it has become a well-oiled machine than now while value is still somewhat muted.
Which brings me back to my original question, is SandRidge a buy near $6 per share? I think that answer is a resounding yes. It has the liquidity to fund double-digit production growth through 2015. In addtion, its focus on capital efficiency should ensure that growth is increasingly more profitable. Ultimately, SandRidge should be worth a lot more in the future, making today's $6 price a pretty decent opportunity and one that I plan on taking advantage of as soon as our trading rules allow.
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