Noble Energy Boosts Its Bet on the Gulf of Mexico

Noble’s acquisition of deepwater Gulf of Mexico exploration leases offers significant long-term upside, augmenting growth from its core assets in the U.S. and Israel.

Jun 17, 2014 at 11:00AM

On Monday, Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL), the Houston-based independent energy exploration and production company, announced that it will expand its presence in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico by acquiring a 50% interest in 17 deepwater exploration leases from BP (NYSE:BP). Let's take a closer look at how this might impact the company's future in the region, as well as its overall future.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Noble to buy Gulf of Mexico leases from BP
Under the terms of the deal, Noble will participate with a 50% working interest in the Bright prospect, which is currently being drilled in water depths of 5,600 feet and could hold 90 to 350 million barrels of oil equivalent in total gross unrisked resources, according to Noble's estimates.

Besides the Bright prospect, Noble has also identified multiple follow-on exploration opportunities on the newly acquired leases. The company believes the leases present numerous opportunities for both near-term and long-term production growth and expects to announce results from its Katmai prospect during its second-quarter earnings calls and from the Bright prospect in the third or fourth quarter.

Though neither BP nor Noble revealed the deal's price tag, making it difficult to judge the transaction from a valuation perspective, the location of Noble's exploration leases and its strong track record of success in deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico bode well for the company.

A big opportunity for Noble
The newly acquired leases are all located in the Atwater Valley protraction area, where BP bid $8 million for a tract of land located roughly 180 miles south of Biloxi, Mississippi, during a government auction in March. That tract was located roughly 10 to 15 miles northeast of the most expensive lease auctioned off -- one for which Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) bid $68.8 million.

Freeport-McMoRan is also betting big on the Gulf of Mexico as the mining giant attempts to diversify its revenues away from copper and double its oil and gas production by 2020. Judging by the level of bidding activity and prices paid for Atwater Valley tracts, the industry clearly has high hopes for deepwater blocks in the area.

Noble is no stranger to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The company entered the Gulf several years ago and views it as a key driver of its production growth, along with its onshore US operations in Colorado's Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin and Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale and its Tamar and Leviathan gas fields offshore Israel.

In addition to a newly expanded portfolio of exploration opportunities, Noble also has a number of large producing fields in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as multiple ongoing development projects. Over the next four to five years, the company expects to double its production from the deepwater Gulf as it develops high-impact projects such as Gunflint, Big Bend, and Dantzler.

Firing on all cylinders
In addition to the long-term upside from its newly acquired Gulf of Mexico exploration leases, Noble is firing on all cylinders across the rest of its portfolio. The company's first-quarter oil and gas sales volumes jumped 20% year over year, fueled by strong performance in the DJ Basin and Marcellus, as well as higher volumes from Israel's Tamar field and West Africa.

Noble is also funding its capital expenditures largely through cash flow, with first-quarter operating cash flow of $929 million only slightly lower than capital expenditures of $950 million. Combined with its strong balance sheet and liquidity of $4.9 billion, the company has ample financial flexibility to ramp up its drilling activity or pursue additional acquisitions.

Investor takeaway
With a large, diversified, and growing portfolio of high-quality assets, Noble is positioned for peer-leading, double-digit production growth over the next several years. Though the company's exceptional growth prospects seem to be largely priced in -- shares currently trade at nearly 20x forward earnings -- Noble's active exploration program in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore West Africa offers meaningful long-term upside.

Will this stock be your next multi-bagger?
While Noble is poised for several years of double-digit production growth, there's a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Arjun Sreekumar has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. 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.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't 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.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information