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Last quarter, I was crooning that anything Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN ) can do, they can do better -- they being Devon's fellow independent exploration and production outfits. I continue to feel that way, and for what it's worth, so does Mr. Market.
Devon itself has taken to pointing out how it is valued at a big discount to peers like EnCana (NYSE: ECA ) and EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG ) . You can also pull up a one-year chart and see how the stock is lagging the rest of the group, from Apache (NYSE: APA ) to XTO Energy (NYSE: XTO ) .
It's not that Devon is a poorly run company. It just happens to operate alongside some phenomenal companies. I keep tabs on hundreds of publicly traded companies, and these are simply some of the best around.
To win investors over, Devon needs to find an edge -- something to make it stand out. Going through the latest quarterly presentation, nothing really seems to fit the bill.
Unlike Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) , Devon's best shale play days could be behind it. Devon is big in the Barnett in North Texas, but none of its future prospects looks quite as bright. The company did hype a big Haynesville well test this week (and you know how I feel about that practice). But it would take a whole string of huge successes to make this modest 47,000-acre parcel in the southwestern extension of the Haynesville play (in East Texas) the envy of the industry.
Devon may soon have a huge deepwater find on its hands, once appraisal drilling on the BP-operated Kaskida discovery wraps up. Even then, will Devon ever outshine Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC ) in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (or Brazil, for that matter)? I could see it being a close race, at best. Still, a big hit at Kaskida would definitely help Devon snag a joint venture partner to help it foot those budget-straining bills.