Many of the world's largest independent oil companies are well known to Americans -- companies like ExxonMobil
And then you have Russia's Lukoil (OTC BB: LUKOY), arguably the most obscure of the bunch from the perspective of the average American investor. And yet, we're talking about the company with the second-largest proven reserves in the world -- the sixth-largest current producer of hydrocarbons. That's no fly-by-night operator.
Speaking of operating, Lukoil continues to do pretty well for itself. Revenue for the third quarter climbed 20%, with more than half of that increase due to the increased realized prices of oil, gas, and refinery products. Profitability also improved as the company manages to stay ahead of production costs and taxes -- operating income rose 44%, and net income was up 59% and came in ahead of analyst expectations.
Comparing the nine months to date, daily production at Lukoil is up more than 5% over last year, with much of that growth coming from natural gas. And it would seem that natural gas will be even more a part of the story next year as management expects to boost production by 40%.
Despite rising production, Lukoil nevertheless managed a reserve replacement ratio of 150% -- meaning that it added 15 barrels of oil (or its equivalent measure of natural gas) for every 10 barrels pulled from the ground. That's an exceptional performance for a company the size of Lukoil, and also a testament to the untapped potential of Siberia's energy fields.
So here you have a company with good production growth, excellent reserves, moderate debt, and what would seem to be a cheap valuation.
Alas, it's not quite that simple. Lukoil shares are traded on the Pink Sheets, making them difficult to buy and follow for some investors. What's more, Russia isn't exactly the most stable investment destination in the world. Still, if you can accept the risks that go along with investing in a Russian energy concern, you just may find that Lukoil can make you lucky, too.
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of PetroChina but has no financial interest in any other stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).