EOG Resources (EOG -0.93%) continues to produce exceptional financial and operational results. That was abundantly evident again during the first quarter, when the oil driller delivered expectation-crushing results. The company's consistently strong performance was one of the key themes on EOG's first-quarter conference call, where CEO Bill Thomas highlighted the six main factors driving its success.
1. We continue to get more efficient
Thomas started the highlight reel by stating, "First, we're running under the plan on capital and over plan on volumes, and we're not raising capital." One of the hallmarks of EOG's success in recent years has been its capital efficiency. The company continues to produce more oil for less money because it's a leader in using data and new technology to improve its drilling process. That's enabling it to generate higher drilling returns and produce even more free cash flow.
2. We have the wind at our backs
"Second," Thomas stated, "EOG has tremendous momentum across all facets of the business: drilling, completions, operating expenses, marketing, and exploration." That continual improvement was quite evident during the first quarter. For example, the company noted that its cash operating expenses had declined 8% on a per-unit basis over the past year. Meanwhile, the company pointed out in its press release that its "marketing operations added to the strong first-quarter financial performance, as the average price on U.S. crude oil sales was $1.21 per barrel higher than the average WTI NYMEX price." The company's ability to continue driving down costs while also extracting a higher price for its oil is expanding its per-barrel profitability, enabling it to make more money on each barrel compared to rivals.
3. We're not resting on our laurels
Thomas continued by stating that "we're still getting better. Along with continuous cost reduction and strong well performance, we're optimistic our low-cost organic exploration efforts this year will increase the quality of our inventory even further and lower the cost of future oil production." While EOG Resources already has enough high-return drilling locations to last it the next 13 years, that's not stopping it from continuing to explore for new sources of low-cost oil. That's further evident in the comments of CFO Tim Driggers on the first-quarter call, where he noted that EOG "invested $303 million in bolt-on property acquisitions located in new exploration areas," during the quarter.
4. We're continuing to find ways to make more money on our oil
Thomas then said, "Fourth, our export marketing agreements provide direct access to international markets and expand our ability to capture the best prices." Another of EOG's successes during the first quarter was its ability to secure more capacity to export its oil in the future. The company signed contracts so that it can now export 100,000 barrels of oil per day (BPD) next year and as much as 250,000 BPD by 2022. These export volumes should capture higher prices, given that the global oil benchmark, Brent, routinely trades at a roughly $10-a-barrel premium to the U.S. oil benchmark WTI.
5. We continue to reward our shareholders
"Fifth," Thomas stated, "the dividend increase shows our confidence in our sustainable business model to deliver performance through the commodity price cycles." EOG boosted its dividend by another 31% during the quarter and has now increased its payout 72% over the past 14 months. That trend should continue given that EOG's primary method of returning its growing free cash flow to investors is through its dividend, which it's aiming to grow at a more than 19% annual rate.
6. Who we are drives our success
Thomas concluded his highlight reel of what sets EOG apart by saying, "And finally, our sustainable business model is driven by our culture." EOG has an exploration-focused mindset. Because of that, it doesn't follow the crowd by pursuing expensive corporate mergers to grow its operations. Instead, the company uses science, technology, and innovation to find new oil resources. That allows EOG to discover the best drilling locations for the lowest price, which gives it a significant competitive advantage over its M&A-focused rivals.
Striving to be one of the best
If there's one thing that makes EOG stand out from other oil companies, it's that "we have an insatiable drive to continue to get better," according to Thomas. That's why the company remains as confident as ever that it can achieve its goal of "being one of the best-performing companies in the S&P 500." While that's a lofty goal, especially for a company that must endure the ups and downs of the oil market, EOG firmly believes it has the right combination of strategy, drive, and resources to enrich its shareholders over the long term.