1 Critical Number Is Still Missing at Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation

Investors in Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation (NYSE: MHR  ) need to keep their eyes on a lot of numbers. However, some numbers don't tell the whole story. That's why investors need to dig a little deeper than the headlines of the company's latest news release detailing its proved reserves to realize it's missing something very important.

Drilling down into the numbers
Most energy investors don't get a glimpse of a company's proved reserves until the company releases its annual report. That number is one of the three most important numbers in that report. Magnum Hunter Resources, however, gave investors a sneak peak of that report by releasing its reserve numbers now. Let's take a look.

The company reported proved reserves of 75.9 million barrels of oil equivalent, or BOE. That's up 23%, or 14.3 million BOE, from last year's number. It is this growth in proved reserves that is a key number for the company. However, the baseline growth does take into account the company's sale of its Eagle Ford shale properties. That said, even when adding back the Eagle Ford assets, Magnum Hunter still grew its proved reserves from 73.1 million BOE to 75.9 million BOE.

That's really important. It means two things: First, the company was able to quickly replace the assets it sold. Second, the company replaced 100% of its production.

What's missing?
This, however, only tells part of the story. There's one critical number missing from this report, and that's the company's potential in the Utica Shale. When the report was prepared, the company was only able to attribute the proved reserves of one of its Utica Shale wells. What that means is that there is a lot of value still not known as Magnum Hunter Resources is one of the companies most levered to the Utica Shale based on the acreage it owns, as the following slide details.

Source: Magnum Hunter Resources Investor Presentation (link opens a PDF).

Based on the results of some of its peers, Magnum Hunter believes it's sitting on a massive resource base in the Utica Shale. The company sees its contingent resources in the Utica Shale to be 496.2 million BOE. That's pretty remarkable potential for a company with just 75.9 million BOE of proved reserves.

There are compelling reasons to believe this is true. A lot of its acreage is adjacent to wells recently drilled by Antero Resources Corp (NYSE: AR  ) . Nearly all of the top wells recently drilled in the Utica Shale belong to Antero Resources, as it claims 8 of the top 9 wells as measured by initial production rates. Further, these wells are very rich with liquids content ranging between 40%-70% of total volume, which is much more valuable than dry natural gas.

The success that Antero Resources and others are having in the Utica Shale bode well not just for Magnum Hunter Resources but for other emerging players in the shale, like Halcon Resources Corp (NYSE: HK  ) , which also has a lot of its value tied to its acreage position in the Utica Shale. It's still determining its potential in the play as it's still evaluating the handful of wells it has drilled. However, its Kibler 1 H well tested at very high liquids rates, which suggests the company and others around it could also be sitting on a lot of potential in the Utica Shale.

Investor takeaway
While proved reserves are important to Magnum Hunter Resources, its real potential lies in the Utica Shale. There's reason to be optimistic as peers like Antero Resources are finding great success close to Magnum Hunter's position. However, only time will tell if that translates to real results for Magnum Hunter. 

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