Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) recently reported decent second-quarter results, driven by a 47% surge in its U.S. onshore oil volumes after adjusting for asset sales. However, despite that oil-fueled growth and higher oil prices, the company's earnings surprisingly missed analysts' expectations. That was one of three unexpected revelations by the company during the quarter.
1. Earnings were a bit less than anticipated
Analysts thought that Anadarko would earn an adjusted $0.56 per share during the second quarter, which would have been $0.04 per share higher than the first quarter. Fueling that anticipated increase was Anadarko's rising oil production, its needle-moving share buyback program, and higher oil prices. The company, however, posted a surprising miss as earnings only came in at $0.54 per share due to higher expenses.
Anadarko wasn't the only oil company that disappointed this quarter. Oil giants Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) also posted mediocre results. In Exxon's case, it only earned $0.92 per share -- which missed expectations by $0.35 per share -- while Chevron's $1.78 per-share profit was $0.31 per share below the consensus estimate. Exxon's miss was mainly the result of some operational issues, while Chevron underwhelmed due to higher expenses.
2. The budget is going higher now
Anadarko, like many of its peers, set a firm budget range for 2018, aiming to spend between $4.2 billion to $4.6 billion since it could fund that level with the cash flows generated on $50 oil. However, with crude rising into the $70s, the company had to adjust its budget to a range of $4.5 billion to $4.8 billion, which is about a $250 million increase at the midpoint.
Two main factors are driving this spending expansion. First, some of the company's partners are boosting their spending levels as a result of higher oil prices. Because of that, Anadarko needs to increase its contributions to fund those new wells. On top of that, the company noted that it's experiencing some "modest service cost inflation."
It's worth noting that neither factor was unique to Anadarko, as ConocoPhillips also had to increase its spending plan for those same reasons. However, on a positive note, Anadarko stated that it would earn "very high returns" on the incremental capital that it will spend on the additional wells, more than offsetting any impact from inflation.
3. The company is gobbling up land in an enticing area
The third surprise this quarter was that Anadarko spent about $100 million to lease land in an emerging oil play in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. While the company didn't provide any further details, this seems like a natural extension, since it currently has a large operation in the DJ Basin of Colorado, which is right next door.
Several rivals have reported strong drilling results in the Powder River Basin this year, including Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), which stated in its second-quarter earnings release that this play is "quickly establishing itself as the growth engine of the company." Chesapeake noted that it delivered several high-rate wells in the quarter, which enabled it to boost output 78% since the start of the year. Meanwhile, EOG Resources also has drilled several high-rate wells in the Powder River Basin this year, which are generating strong returns for the company.
No reason to worry
While Anadarko missed analysts' expectations and had to increase its budget due, in part, to some cost inflation, these items don't imply any pressing problems with the company. That's because it still generated strong oil-production growth during the quarter and is producing more cash than it needs. This is why the company was able to boost spending and buy land in the Powder River Basin, all while returning significantly more cash to shareholders through a big-time dividend boost and stock buyback. Because of that, Anadarko remains well-positioned to continue generating strong returns for investors in the coming years.