Shares of natural gas driller Antero Resources (NYSE:AR) rose as much as 20% on April 30, hitting that peak within the first 30 minutes of trading. Although the price swooned a bit after 10 a.m., by early afternoon, it was still holding onto a mid-teens gain. Commodity prices are always an important factor for an energy company, but today's big jump was likely driven by the company's earnings.
Antero reported a first-quarter loss of $1.19 per share versus a profit of $3.17 in the prior year. Those numbers include certain one-time gains, including a large benefit in the prior year from the company's "deconsolidation" with Antero Midstream. Adjusted earnings for Antero Resources came in at a loss of $0.13 per share versus a profit of $0.31. The decline was largely driven by lower energy prices, with Antero's realized price falling 33% year over year. That was the bad news.
The good news is that Antero has been cutting costs and pulling back on its capital spending plans. However, despite these efforts, it continues to stand by its full-year production guidance. Moreover, it doesn't anticipate having to shut down any of its production because of the difficult supply/demand dynamics in the energy market today. And, perhaps most important, management believes the company will be cash flow positive for the full year.
Investors were clearly cheered by this news, as well as by the announcement that the company had roughly $1 billion in liquidity following bank reassessments of its borrowing base. Banks lend to drillers based on the value of the commodities in their portfolio. When oil and gas prices are low, this can lead to a liquidity crunch if there is a material reduction in a company's borrowing base. Antero obviously survived the reassessment with room to spare.
All in all, the market environment isn't great, but it looks like Antero is handling the headwinds relatively well. This is good news. But still, only aggressive investors should be looking at a tiny driller like this (the market cap is just $800 million or so) at a time when energy markets are more volatile than usual because of a supply/demand imbalance. Even Antero highlighted the material uncertainty in the market today, suggesting that it could further adjust its already-reduced spending plans as the year progresses.