3 Numbers to Watch When LINN Energy LLC Reports Earnings

Photo credit: LINN Energy LLC

LINN Energy LLC (NASDAQ: LINE  ) as well as its affiliate LinnCo LLC (NASDAQ: LNCO  ) are expected to deliver fourth-quarter and full-year results on Thursday before the market opens. LINN already told investors that we can expect a great quarter. However, if something changed from that update it's because one of the following three numbers didn't live up to expectations.

Production
LINN Energy expects its fourth-quarter production to be in a range of 840-860 MMcfe/d. That would put the company right on track to hit its 2013 organic production growth target of 8%-10% on the year. As investors we'd prefer to see the company at least hit the high end of that target range, if not exceed it.

LINN Energy likely would have easily exceeded its production target if it wasn't for severe winter weather in the Permian Basin and Mid-Continent regions on the quarter. The good news is that while many of its peers already reported weaker than expected production because of issues with the weather, LINN Energy doesn't see the weather impacting its production. So, this will still be a nice reversal for LINN Energy and LinnCo after what happened earlier in the year when poor weather was one of the many issues that caused a poor start to the year.

Photo credit: LINN Energy LLC

Berry Petroleum's contribution
One of the highlights on the quarter will likely be the closing of LinnCo's complex deal with LINN Energy for Berry Petroleum. Because the deal didn't close until the end of the quarter it likely didn't impact LINN's quarterly results by all that much. That said, investors will still want to take a look at what LINN Energy had to say about Berry Petroleum's results on the quarter.

The one number to keep an eye on is production, which should have totaled 44,000 Boe/d. Berry is coming off of a very solid third quarter where it delivered solid oil-rich production growth. We should expect to see nothing less again this quarter. This is why investors will want to key in to what LINN Energy has to say about Berry's results on the quarter.

Excess cash flow
One of LINN Energy's biggest problems to start the year is that it was paying out more to its investors than it was earning. That number reversed last quarter and should be even better this quarter. After reporting income above its distribution of about 1% last quarter, the company expects to produce 5%-10% more cash than it distributes to investors this quarter. Further, it expects its excess cash flow to continue improving now that it has completed the merger with Berry Petroleum.

Because of this it is possible that the company will be in the position to raise its distribution to investors. As some will remember, that was the plan when the company announced it was acquiring Berry last February.

Investor takeaway
Because LINN Energy and by extension LinnCo already announced that we can expect a great quarter, I wouldn't expect that we will see any real surprises in Thursday's report. If anything, we could expect to see the company meet or exceed the high end of its own guidance range and maybe even announce an increase in its distribution. That would be a welcomed sight for investors that endured a pretty rough 2013.

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