You Should Pay Attention to Devon Energy's Big Moves

Devon Energy is selling assets to Canadian Natural Resources to double-down on U.S. oil. This is a common theme for U.S. exploration and production majors, and makes a lot of sense.

Feb 24, 2014 at 10:40AM

Oil and gas exploration and production giant Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN) isn't content to sit still. The energy major has made several announcements over the past few months to restructure its business. Devon has targeted a new long-term focus , which management is calling 'The New Devon Energy'.

Devon is aggressively shedding assets which it considers not to be crucial for future production, while simultaneously increasing its presence in some of the most promising oil and gas fields in the United States. This makes a lot of sense, since the U.S. is a stable country with soaring oil and gas production. That's why Devon's strategy should be very beneficial to shareholders.

Devon is getting domesticated
Devon's series of transactions over the past few years follow the company's overarching strategy, which is to become much more focused on domestic oil and gas fields. For instance, Devon purchased $6 billion worth of assets in the highly productive Eagle Ford shale from privately held GeoSouthern Energy last year. Devon's most recent move is to sell $2.86 billion worth of conventional oil and natural gas fields in Canada to Canadian Natural Resources (NYSE:CNQ).

Canadian Natural Resources and Devon seem to share a similar philosophy, which is to focus on assets close to home. Canadian Natural holds significant operations in the Canadian oil sands. The company is the largest heavy oil producer in Canada, and will spend $7.7 billion this year to keep boosting production. Much of this will be allocated to oil sands development, where the company hopes to increase organic production by 7% in 2014.

Adding Devon's assets will only add to production this year by boosting production by more than 86,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day. The deal makes sense for Canadian Natural Resources as well as Devon. Canadian Natural Resources gets to expand its footprint in its home turf, and the assets acquired are developed. As a result, Canadian Natural management expects the deal to be immediately accretive to cash flow. The assets are expected to boost cash flow by about $75 million this year.

Devon is an equal winner from the deal. It will use proceeds from the sale to repay the debt incurred to finance its Eagle Ford asset purchase. In addition, Devon got a fairly strong price for the assets sold to Canadian Natural Resources. The assets were bought for about 7 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Consider that Devon as a whole trades for about 5.6 times EBITDA. The acquisition carries a higher multiple than Devon currently trades for, which means its assets sold for a fairly significant premium.

Doubling-down on U.S. oil
Some of the biggest oil and gas producers in the United States are realizing the comforts of home. Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY) is betting heavily on U.S. oil, and simultaneously shying away from natural gas. That seems like a curious decision in light of the fact that natural gas prices are rallying above $6 and sitting at levels not seen in years. Nevertheless, Occidental increased its oil production by 4% in the United States last year, and plans to more than double production growth to 9% this year.

At the same time, Occidental expects domestic gas production to fall in 2014. In accordance with this, Occidental will sell its interest in one of the largest natural gas fields in the U.S. for $1.4 billion. The company will use the proceeds to help support its oil production forecast.

Asset shake-ups across the oil and gas industry
Many large oil and gas companies are making big moves to restructure their businesses and reshape their asset bases. Certain management teams see the oil and gas boom in the United States unfolding in different ways. There's a clear divergence between how different management teams see the energy landscape unfolding in the near future. As a result, they're targeting different product lines or geographic regions.

One thing that majors including Devon Energy and Occidental Petroleum agree on is that oil production in the U.S. is booming. In response, they're positioning their companies to benefit from the trend continuing for many years.

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Bob Ciura has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Devon Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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