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Viper Energy Partners LP (VNOM) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Transcribers - Feb 23, 2021 at 3:31PM

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VNOM earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.

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Viper Energy Partners LP (VNOM -1.34%)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 23, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Viper Energy Partners' Fourth Quarter 2020 Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the speakers' presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Please be advised that today's call is being recorded.

[Operator Instructions] I would now like to hand the call over to Adam Lawlis, Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Adam Lawlis -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you, Michelle. Good morning, and welcome to Viper Energy Partners' fourth quarter 2020 conference call. During our call today, we will reference an updated investor presentation, which can be found on Viper's website. Representing Viper today are Travis Stice, CEO; and Kaes Van't Hof, President.

During this conference call, the participants may make certain forward-looking statements relating to the Company's financial condition, results of operations, plans, objectives, future performance and businesses. We caution you that actual results could differ materially from those that are indicated in these forward-looking statements due to a variety of factors. Information concerning these factors can be found in the Company's filings with the SEC.

In addition, we will make reference to certain non-GAAP measures. The reconciliations with the appropriate GAAP measures can be found in our earnings release issued yesterday afternoon.

I'll now turn the call over to Travis Stice.

Travis D. Stice -- Chief Executive Officer and Director

Thank you, Adam. Welcome everyone, and thank you for listening to Viper Energy Partners' fourth quarter 2020 conference call. Viper's financial and operational performance rebounded strongly in the second half of last year after surviving the unprecedented volatility experienced through most of 2020. Commodity prices have increased and associated activity on Viper's acreage has increased alongside the commodity.

Even in a year where we experienced historically low commodity prices, Viper was able to generate almost $200 million in operating cash flow, which was almost entirely converted to free cash flow due to our business having zero capital requirements. This recovery again highlights both the advantaged nature of the royalty business model as well as the benefit of Viper's symbiotic relationship with our parent company Diamondback.

Looking at the fourth quarter specifically, Viper's 10% quarter-over-quarter increase in oil production was driven primarily by Viper having an interest in 21 of Diamondback's 35 completions, with well performance exceeding internal expectations. Viper also benefited from third-party operated well performance and timing of wells being turned to production outperforming our prior conservative expectations, which had been lowered due to the uncertainty presented by the volatile oil prices experienced early last year.

Viper was once again able to generate significant free cash flow, both organically as well as inorganically, through non-core asset sales, which accelerated in the fourth quarter. The truly unique nature of Viper's business model is highlighted by the fact that during the fourth quarter alone, we were able to declare a $0.14 distribution, repurchase over 2 million units and repay over $40 million in debt. Over the past nine months, we have now reduced total debt by $110 million or roughly 16% over this period. Further, the units we have repurchased today represent 1.6% of total units previously outstanding.

Looking ahead to 2021, we have initiated production guidance for 2021 that incorporates our strong backlog of work-in-progress plus line-of-sight wells, as well as the anticipated impact to our production from the recent winter storms in the Permian Basin.

Viper is expected to have meaningful exposure to Diamondback's high-graded primarily Midland Basin focused development in 2021. Additionally, visibility into third-party operators' anticipated activity levels continues to increase, as commodity prices have improved and operators have returned to work. However, in an effort to be conservative, we will continue to incorporate slower-than-normal timing assumptions in the guidance we have provided. Despite this conservatism, along with the production impact from the recent winter storms, Viper is still expected to generate roughly $250 million of free cash flow this year, assuming $55 WTI and production at the midpoint of our full-year 2020 guide. This equates to greater than 8% free cash flow yield as a percentage of our enterprise value or roughly 10% based on our current market cap.

Viper remains in strong financial shape with $515 million of liquidity and will look to continue to decrease leverage, while also increasing return of capital to our unitholders over the coming quarters.

In conclusion, 2020 was truly historic for all the wrong reasons. Despite these difficult conditions, Viper showcased its differentiated business model and best-in-class cost structure to emerge from this down cycle with a positive forward outlook.

Operator, please open the line for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Neal Dingmann with Truist Securities. Your line is open.

Neal Dingmann -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Morning, guys. I'm trying to figure out here with your guidance, you -- maybe give me a little bit of help here. You mentioned that all the wells that are in process, 529 you put in there and then you talked about the 538 wells that are in sight. I'm just wondering, could you talk about kind of what's based in the guide? Is that just these wells or maybe the expectations for total wells around that?

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Yeah, Neal. Good question. I think we're assuming somewhere in the range of nine to 10 net Diamondback wells throughout the year. I think while we had a lot of high interest Diamondback wells come on in Q3 and Q4, we're taking a bit of a pause there based on the schedule today. So, that number will come down a little bit here in Q1, but to pick back up in Q2 of 2021. And then we're assuming kind of somewhere around one net well a quarter on the non-op. I think that probably is a little more back-half weighted than the Diamondback plan. But I think, we're pretty excited on the amount of net wells we're seeing on the non-op side start to get permitted, drilled and eventually completed here as the commodities recover.

Neal Dingmann -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Okay. No, that makes sense. I think it was maybe back weighted. And then just one follow-up. Should we think about kind of that 58% oil weighting? And I think the NRI's run was around 6%, is that going to be somewhere in that ballpark, sort of going forward?

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

I think the oil weighting at 60% is a fair assessment [Indecipherable] on the FANG-operated 6% NRI.

Adam Lawlis -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Yeah, that's probably about right, 6% to 7%. We've kind of talked about it as percent exposure to the stand-alone Diamondback development plan, so probably 70% exposure so to that plant. And then that'll go down as QEP and Guidon are incorporated. But, yeah, I think 6% to 7% average NRI throughout the year will be fair.

Neal Dingmann -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you, all.

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Thanks, Neal.

Operator

Our next question comes from Derrick Whitfield with Stifel. Your line is open.

Derrick Whitfield -- Stifel -- Analyst

Good morning, again.

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Hi, Derrick.

Derrick Whitfield -- Stifel -- Analyst

Hi. Kaes, wanted to circle back to your comments on visibility at high level, referencing your forward visibility slides on pages seven and nine. Could you comment on how we should think about Diamondback's contribution to Viper post the QEP and Guidon transactions?

Would it be safe to assume the combined value of work-in-progress and line-of-sight wells would remain around that 10 to 11 net well or in line with Q3 and Q4 levels?

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Yeah. I think that's right, Derrick. I mean, I think we'll get into this probably later in the call, but we do have a lot of opportunities to increase mineral ownership under QEP and Guidon. We didn't own a lot of minerals under those two entities prior to announcing these two deals, but our team is doing some work in trying to get more exposure under the couple of pads that we have visibility to that might not have permits filed already to get a hop on a good deal there.

So I don't think it changes -- the addition of QEP or Guidon changes the amount of net wells under Diamondback for the year. But certainly as the year progresses, I think there will be opportunity to increase that number with selective purchasing of minerals underneath the pro forma Diamondback development plan.

Derrick Whitfield -- Stifel -- Analyst

Okay. That was in fact my follow up with the pending successful closure of both these transactions. Could you perhaps put some parameters or speak to the degree of A&D opportunity that presents to Viper?

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Yeah. It's pretty significant, Derrick, and people have been calling us. I think we've been still trying to work the pro forma development plan to make sure we're buying selectively. We also need to make sure we're managing our balance sheet appropriately and I think the capital allocation decision for us is going to be do we continue buying back shares or do we use some cash to buy minerals or trade minerals or continue to sell non-op minerals like we did in the fourth quarter. I think that market continues to heal.

And I think, as you think about Viper, we no longer need to be the biggest mineral company out there, we just need to be the best. And that to be the best means, we have to have more visibility into the other side of our business card, which we're trying to do here by buying more minerals under Diamondback.

Derrick Whitfield -- Stifel -- Analyst

That makes sense. Very helpful, guys.

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Thank you, Derrick.

Operator

Our next question comes from Gail Nicholson with Stephens. Your line is open.

Gail Nicholson -- Stephens -- Analyst

Good morning. When looking at that $250 million of free cash flow generated at $55 oil, how do you bucket that in the standpoint of a cash distribution payment to shareholders versus debt reduction versus that continuing to buyback and/or future M&A events?

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Yeah, Gail. I think we're pretty happy with the 50% of distributable cash flow going to investors in the form of the distribution right now. The Board did have a very active discussion on the buyback, and we're very happy that the buyback has worked to date. I think the buyback versus buying more minerals under Diamondback is really the fulcrum here because I think probably a quarter of our free cash flow still goes toward debt reduction.

I think we want our revolver to be at or near -- or as close to zero as possible by the end of this year. We're well on our way to doing that. So, we have visibility into a revolver at zero, our bonds are trading well. So I'm not concerned there. And more free cash flow than the distribution percentage will probably likely increase over time.

Gail Nicholson -- Stephens -- Analyst

Great. And then looking at the over $40 million in asset sales that were done this quarter, were those like smaller packages? Was there a larger package? Can you just talk about kind of what that -- the M&A space looks like on the divestiture side for you guys?

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Yeah. It's really four deals, two small, two of decent size. The two of decent size were in the -- one was in the $12 million to $15 million range and one was close to $20 million, and those were all under third parties, non-operated by Diamondback without true visibility. Not a lot of permits, no existing production, some vertical production, but no meaningful production.

So, we were happy to get that deal done. And I think it accelerated the deleveraging process and also allowed us to buy back a lot of stock in December and January as the stock was weaker than it is today. And also, we ended the year at under 3 times leverage. So I think that was a testament to the team getting these deals done before the end of the year and not touching that 3 times number that we don't want to go above.

Gail Nicholson -- Stephens -- Analyst

Great, thank you.

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Thank you, Gail.

Operator

Our next question comes from Pearce Hammond with Simmons Energy. Your line is open.

Pearce Hammond -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

Yeah. Good morning, and thanks for taking my questions. My first question. Well, first just a statement. Congrats on the success in fortifying the balance sheet. I'm just curious, what leverage ratio are you targeting for the balance sheet? And when you reach that target, would you expect to increase the payout ratio? Or is the payout ratio a function of how much stock you expect to buy back?

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Yeah. Good question, Pearce. I think it's more a gross debt reduction. I'd like to -- like I said early, I'd like the revolver down to zero. I think with the forward strip where it is, the forward free cash flow outlook looks strong enough that we'll be comfortably under two times cleaner by the end of the year.

I think longer term, we'd prefer to be in the 1 time to 1.5 times ratio, but also paying down gross debt. So first step is under two, I think it's going to happen pretty quickly here with the strip where it is. But like -- just like at Diamondback, I don't think that precludes us from continuing to increase the returns to shareholders in the form of the distribution.

Pearce Hammond -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

Thank you, Kaes. And then as a follow-up to that, as the balance sheet is strengthened and as it continues to get better, would that mean that the desire to hedge would be going down as well?

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

I think we've learned that maybe some -- small amount of hedging at Viper to protect the downside or protect a minimum distribution and a maximum leverage is probably going to be in the cards. I don't think it's going to be hedging all of our production, but certainly protecting that downside and guaranteeing some returns to investors, and simplifying this business is probably prudent over a longer period of time here.

Pearce Hammond -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you, Kaes. And as a comment, I loved the prepared remarks where Travis said 2020 truly historic for all the wrong reasons. Well put.

Travis D. Stice -- Chief Executive Officer and Director

Yeah. Thank you.

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

We're on to 2021.

Operator

There are no further questions. I'd like to turn the call back over to Travis Stice, CEO, for any closing remarks.

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

So before Travis speaks, there wasn't a question about the storm impact in Q1. I just want to give investors some guidelines around the year because obviously guidance was taking down a little bit of Viper. We're assuming four days to five days of downtime on Diamondback-operated properties, we're assuming five days to seven days of downtime on non-op properties just to be conservative and then getting that production back.

I point people to kind of look at Q1 as very similar to what we produced in Q2 of 2020, but then some pretty significant growth after that in Q2 through Q4, which kind of equals a similar oil production guide to where the Street was prior to the storm impact. So while the storm impact is going to be meaningful in Q1, we do expect a pretty quick rebound in Q2 and we saw some positive things early in Q1 prior to the storm. So Travis, I'll let you close.

Travis D. Stice -- Chief Executive Officer and Director

I appreciate those comments, Kaes. Thank you again to everyone participating in today's call. If you got any questions, please contact us using the contact information provided.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 17 minutes

Call participants:

Adam Lawlis -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Travis D. Stice -- Chief Executive Officer and Director

Kaes Van't Hof -- President

Neal Dingmann -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Derrick Whitfield -- Stifel -- Analyst

Gail Nicholson -- Stephens -- Analyst

Pearce Hammond -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

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