Encana to Cut Jobs, Slash Dividend, Spin Off Assets

Today, Canada's largest natural gas producer, Encana (NYSE: ECA  ) , announced plans outlining some big moves following a difficult 2013 in which the stock saw its price fall almost 10% prior to the gains seen today. As a result of the actions, the company noted that it expects its cash flow per share can grow at a rate of 10% per year through 2017.

The company highlighted several key points of this strategy, including a greater focus on five "high return oil and liquids-rich plays" where it will invest 75% of its capital (the Montney, Duvernay, DJ Basin, San Juan Basin, and Tuscaloosa Marine Shale). Encana expects next year's capital spending to be around $2.5 billion.

It will also spin off its mineral fee title land positions in southern Alberta to a new company through an IPO (in which Encana will retain significant ownership), and it has identified assets that it will begin to divest. In addition, the company announced it is reducing its work force by 20% and is closing its office in Plano, Texas, while it consolidates its operations to Calgary, and Alberta, Canada, as well as Denver.

The company also announced it would be cutting its quarterly dividend from $0.20 per share down to $0.07 per share. This all comes after natural gas prices have plummeted and are expected to stay low into the foreseeable future.

"In order to align our organization with our strategy, we have had to make a number of exceptionally difficult decisions," said Encana CEO and President Doug Suttles in a statement. "The restructuring that is under way reflects our shift from funding about 30 different plays to focusing our resources on five key areas. We will work as hard as we can to make these staffing decisions quickly and thoughtfully and we will treat everyone affected with respect as we work through this very difficult part of our transition." The job cuts should be mostly complete by the end of this year, Suttles said.

The company's statement said about 5 million acres (2 million hectares) of Alberta lands and associated royalty interests, currently known as Encana's Clearwater region, will be transferred to a new public company next year. Suttles was unable to divulge many details on the Clearwater play, as Encana is preparing to take that company public around the middle of next year.

Suttles also was quoted as saying, "We have a focused long term plan in place, the resource base to support that plan and a talented team of people with the energy and drive to succeed."

At the time of writing, Encana's stock was up almost 3% on the news after touching approxiately 5% earlier in the day.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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