There are a myriad of energy companies out there vying for your affection and investment dollars. Not all are worth a second thought, and far fewer are worth your hard-earned money. One that just might be worth both is Oklahoma City based Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN). With a focus on building the per share value of the company, here are five reasons why you should love this stock.
Its dirt cheap
No matter how you slice it, Devon is cheap. It's trading for half its net asset value, and sells for just over one times book value and about seven times cash flow. While it might appear expensive at more than 35 times earnings, don't let that number fool you. This is a misunderstood company that's trading at a deep value.
It's getting oily
Part of the misunderstanding comes from the fact that many see Devon as a natural gas company. There is no denying this truth, especially when 63% of the company's production is natural gas. Devon also ranks as the nation's fourth largest producer of natural gas behind ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) and Anadarko (NYSE:APC). So, yes, Devon is a natural gas company.
However, few recognize Devon as the top ten U.S. liquids producer that it has become. In particular, its oil production is growing fast as its operations in the oil sands of Canada and the Permian Basin are expected to drive 18% to 20% annual oil production growth.That growth outpaces more liquid-minded rivals ExxonMobil and Anadarko, and the market hasn't even noticed.
The reason? Both ExxonMobil and Anadarko have vast international and deepwater operations, whereas Devon sold off everything but its North American onshore assets.These high-impact international and deepwater operations produce oil at the global benchmark Brent prices, while Devon's production is priced at the discounted West Texas Intermediate prices, or the even more discounted Canadian crude. As more pipeline infrastructure comes online in North America, these discounts should abate, which should relieve some of the pressure on Devon's stock.
Canadian oil sands play
As I just mentioned, oil coming out of Canada is currently priced at a major discount. However, help is on the way, as additional infrastructure is coming online, along with incremental refining demand. This near-term catalyst should begin to narrow the discount as early as the middle of this year. Longer term, Devon has several world-class projects in the works, including additional Jackfish facilities, and its Pike project. As these continue to come online, it will drive Devon's oil production for decades to come. Devon is a great way to get the growth from the oil sands into your portfolio.
Top notch capital allocation
You don't often find great capital allocation in the energy industry and, to be honest, you'll be hard-pressed to find this trait elsewhere. Devon is intently focused on managing its cash, which has led to the company reducing its debt by $3 billion since 2003. Not only that, but it has reduced share count by 20% since 2004, and has increased its dividend by 26% annually since 2004. Not only is Devon shareholder-friendly, but management is smartly allocating capital to grow liquids production, while taking its foot off the gas and not allocating capital to grow natural gas production.
Terrific balance sheet
Because of smart capital allocation, Devon is sitting on a cash-rich balance sheet with more than $7.5 billion of cash to weather any storm. It does have debt, but the company's repositioning plan has shed non-core assets, and enabled the company to build up that cash war chest. When natural gas prices plunged a few years back, Devon was in the same pickle as fellow natural gas peer Chesapeake. Because Devon wasn't as aggressive before prices plunged, and had greater diversity, it was able to weather that storm and reposition for the turn. Chesapeake, on the other hand, still has more than $12.5 billion of debt weighing down its balance sheet and, while it too has been unloading assets, it still is just scraping by.
My Foolish take
There's a lot to love with Devon, and what impresses me the most about the company is how its top-notch capital allocation has yielded such a terrific balance sheet. You don't find that too often in the energy industry. While some might argue that the company bet wrongly by focusing completely onshore, I think that Devon smartly realized that it was best to focus on its core plays rather than to be over-diversified
A safer option
Fool contributor Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Devon Energy and has the following options: Long Jan 2014 $20 Calls on Chesapeake Energy, Long Jan 2014 $30 Calls on Chesapeake Energy, and Short Jan 2014 $15 Puts on Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.