Oil and gas exploration and production company Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN) is making big strategic moves that are set to fuel its future. Specifically, the company is placing its bets in the United States. This makes a lot of sense, since domestic oil and gas production is ramping up and is now at levels not seen in decades.
Thanks to booming U.S. production from onshore plays like the Eagle Ford shale, Devon's new strategic direction has the potential to pay off for years to come. It's divesting resources located outside the U.S. to double down domestically. Here's why the new Devon Energy deserves your attention.
Devon's strategic initiatives under the spotlight
Devon recently closed on several strategic decisions that each carry the over-arching goal of focusing deeply on upstream exploration and production in the United States. First of these is Devon's move to combine its own midstream assets with those of Crosstex Energy, to form EnLink Midstream Partners LP (NYSE: ENLK). EnLink only recently began trading as an independent Master Limited Partnership, and will handle the midstream assets located in some of the highly productive oil and gas regions in the U.S. including the Barnett, Permian Basin, Utica, and Marcellus Shales.
Devon management is fully intent on focusing on upstream exploration and production, specifically in the United States. To do this, Devon recently closed on the sale of the majority of its Canadian assets to Canadian Natural Resources (NYSE:CNQ) for $2.86 billion. The sale involves a significant amount of assets with proved reserves totaling 170 million barrels of oil equivalents as of December 31, 2013.
This deal makes good strategic sense for both sides. As previously mentioned, Devon wants to refocus on domestic oil and gas production, while Canadian Natural Resources essentially wants to do the same thing. Canadian Natural Resources is the largest heavy oil producer in Canada. Now that the transaction has closed, Devon plans to immediately repatriate the cash to the U.S. to repay the debt incurred from its earlier purchase of assets at the Eagle Ford shale. Last year, Devon acquired $6 billion worth of Eagle Ford assets from privately held GeoSouthern Energy.
Devon management believes these deals will greatly benefit shareholders. Management feels it got a solid premium from Canadian Natural Resources. Devon sold the Canadian assets for nearly 7 times 2013 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). This is a higher multiple than Devon Energy trades for as a whole, which stands at just 4.3 times EBITDA according to Yahoo! Finance.
Devon won't stop there
Devon management calls its asset sales the 'non-core divestiture process.' Put simply, the company fully intends to get rid of assets that it deems non-critical to its future strategy, which is to acquire as much acreage as it can in the best-performing onshore fields in the United States. Devon's divestiture process is ongoing for the company's remaining non-core properties. That means that investors should expect more of these deals in the near future. Devon expects to complete its additional divestments by the end of the year.
It's clear that Devon's strategic initiatives are already starting to work in its favor. Devon's total oil and gas production last year rose to 696,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, which beat the company's own forecast by 6,000 barrels of oil equivalent. And, momentum gained steam toward the end of the year.
Devon's oil production set a new quarterly record of 177,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter. This represented a 17% increase year over year, and was thanks largely to its focus on premier U.S. properties. Devon's Permian Basin operations generated a 29% increase in production to 86,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter.
Going forward, investors can expect more of the same from the new Devon Energy. It's shedding non-critical assets outside its core competency, which are in the highest-producing areas of the U.S. including the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford shale. The energy boom taking place in the United States keeps going strong, and Devon Energy is positioning itself as a major beneficiary.
Devon might just be one of the top companies in the U.S. oil business