Chesapeake Energy's (CHKA.Q) first-quarter results didn't come in quite as good as analysts expected. Overall, the company's adjusted earnings fell short of the consensus estimate by $0.01 per share. That miss grabbed headlines and cooled off the company's red-hot stock.
However, underneath that headline number, Chesapeake delivered strong results that investors won't want to overlook. Here are three key figures from that report that show that the company's strategy is delivering results.
$500,000: Well cost savings at Brazos Valley
Chesapeake Energy closed its acquisition of WildHorse Resource Development during the quarter, which it renamed its Brazos Valley unit. The company immediately began integrating the assets, which included implementing some key changes. As a result, the company has eliminated an average of $500,000 in costs per newly drilled well, driven by its ability to drill faster and complete more fracking stages per day. On top of that, the early production results from wells completed using the company's proprietary methods have come in above expectations.
Chesapeake anticipates that it can drive out more costs as it continues integrating these assets. It has already achieved $1 million in savings on some wells. This quick success in integrating Brazos Valley increases confidence that this transformational transaction will deliver the expected growth in high-margin oil as well as the anticipated cost savings.
18%: Growth in high-margin oil production
Chesapeake Energy pumped out an average of 109,000 barrels of crude oil per day (BPD) during the quarter. That's up 18% overall, and 13% after adjusting for the sale of its Utica shale assets and the acquisition of WildHorse Resource Development. Overall, crude oil accounted for 22% of the company's total production.
The primary driver of the surge in oil output is the company's position in the Powder River Basin (PBR). Oil output in that region rocketed nearly 129% to 16,000 BPD even though the company battled significant weather issues during the quarter. The company currently has six rigs drilling in the PBR, which should fuel rapid oil growth throughout the year.
Chesapeake Energy remains on track to expand its oil production 32% this year, which will improve the mix to 26% of total output.
$15.50: Earnings per barrel of oil equivalent
Chesapeake Energy has had a dual focus to improve its profitability: drive down costs and expand its high-margin oil output. The company was successful in both areas during the first quarter, as oil output jumped 18% while cash costs fell 14% compared to the year-ago period. Those dual fuels helped boost its operating margin to $15.50 per barrel. That was its highest level in four years.
That number should continue expanding as the company maintains its dual focus on growing higher-margin oil output while driving down costs. One area where margins should soar is in the Powder River Basin. Chesapeake Energy signed an agreement earlier this year with a midstream company that's building out an oil gathering system to support the company's production in the region, which should reduce transportation costs by 25%. Initiatives like that one should help drive a 60% increase in its PBR margin to $20.50 per barrel of oil equivalent for the full year.
A good first step
Chesapeake Energy's acquisition of Wildhorse Resource Development is already paying dividends. Not only did that deal provide an immediate boost to its oil output but the company has started implementing changes that are having a noticeable impact on well costs. Meanwhile, its Powder River Basin assets continue to perform well, which has the company on track to continue growing oil production and margins. That keeps the Chesapeake on pace with its long-term strategic goals of eventually generating free cash flow so that it can further improve its financial profile.