Hess Corp. (NYSE:HES) spent the past few years reshaping its portfolio. The aim of this reshuffle is to focus the oil company on its best assets, which should create the most value for its shareholders over the long term. This strategy has already started paying dividends; the company was in the right place at the right time to deliver strong third-quarter results.
With its asset sale program complete, Hess can now direct all its attention to the future. On the third-quarter conference call, Hess' management team laid out what will drive the company. Here are three things they wanted to make sure investors know about its strategic direction.
1. Our cash engines will fuel our growth engines
CEO John Hess gave an overview of the company's plans on the call. He stated that "fundamental to this strategy is our focused high-return portfolio with Guyana and the Bakken as our growth engines -- where we plan to invest about 75% of our capital and exploratory expenditures over the next five years -- and Malaysia and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico as our cash engines." As the CEO points out, the first thing investors need to know about Hess is that it's pared its portfolio down to four core positions: two focused on growth, and two on cash flow.
Hess' plans are to use the cash flow generated by Malaysia and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico to feed its growth engines. That's "an integral part of our strategy" because it will allow the company to maintain a "strong balance sheet and liquidity position, to ensure we have the financial capacity to fund our world-class investment opportunity in Guyana and maintain our investment-grade credit rating."
2. The Bakken is our near-term growth engine
The CEO noted that Hess plans to spend 75% of its $3 billion annual capital budget on its growth engines, split roughly 50-50 between the Bakken and Guyana. The Bakken will drive growth in the near term because wells in the region come online in a matter of months. In the company's view, it can grow its Bakken production at a 15% to 20% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through at least 2021, when output should average about 175,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/D).
Once Hess hits its peak level in the region, which will probably be a bit higher than its current 2021 forecast, the company will shift gears in the Bakken. President and chief operating officer Greg Hill said on the call:
Our current plan on the Bakken ... is to take it to that new peak level, drop the rigs to four (from six in 2018), and then hold it at that new peak level for a number of years. At that point, the Bakken becomes a massive cash generator for the company. So cash flow will be significantly up in the Bakken.
While Hess has enough land in the Bakken to continue drilling at its current pace for 15 years, it's planning to slow down in a few years and convert this asset into another cash generator. That will give it the funds to allocate elsewhere, such as a new growth engine or increased cash returns to investors.
3. Guyana is our future
While the Bakken is Hess' near-term growth engine, Guyana is the future of the company. John Hess stated on the call that "our position in Guyana is truly world-class in every respect and transformational for our company." That's because Hess and its partners ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and China's CNOOC (NYSE:CEO) have already discovered resources totaling an astounding 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent, and have the potential to find billions of additional barrels of oil as they continue exploring their position in the region.
The Exxon-led partnership is already working on its first phase of development, which should come online and begin producing oil by early 2020. Meanwhile, phase two is on track for a mid-2022 start-up, followed by phase three in 2023. All told, Hess believes that the Exxon-operated project could produce as much as 750,000 BOE/D by 2025, with 30% of that output going to Hess. That's a needle-moving amount of oil for a company that's on track to produce 255,000 BOE/D this year. In Hess' estimation, this has it on pace to grow its production by at least a 10% CAGR through 2023, with cash flow expanding at an even faster 25% CAGR over that time frame, assuming oil averages $60 per barrel.
An oil company with a plan to prosper
Hess is starting a new chapter, which will see its growth reaccelerate, powered by its four engines. The company plans to use its two cash engines to feed its dual growth drivers, so it can deliver high-rate production and cash flow growth over the next several years. That expansion plan has the potential to create significant value for long-term investors -- making Hess a great oil stock to buy with the future in mind.