A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article describing three risks to Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL) -- things that could lead to its stock price falling. None of those risks are guaranteed to happen, and there are just as many things Noble Energy has going in its favor, too. When it comes to investing, one of the first -- and most important -- lessons that you need to learn is there's no such thing as a "can't-miss," perfect investment. It's all about probabilities.
With that in mind, let's take a look at three things working in Noble Energy's favor that could send the stock higher in the months and years to come.
1. International exposure balanced by strong U.S. reserves
Noble Energy is one of only a handful of E&P companies of its size that operate on several continents, as well as both offshore and land-based drilling. Most of its smaller, independent brethren tend to focus on only a few geographies within one area, and usually either onshore or offshore. Noble Energy operates offshore sites in North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean (Israel), deepwater sites in the Gulf of Mexico, and onshore production in the Marcellus shale and DJ Basin in the United States.
From Noble Energy's most recent annual report:
As you can see, more than half of its proved and developed resources are in Noble Energy's offshore Israeli fields and Equatorial Guinea, but the majority of its total proved reserves -- including those not yet developed -- are domestic.
Oil and gas production in North America is booming right now, but demand for oil is actually on the decline here. However, globally, demand for oil is expected to continue to grow, especially in developing economies where the middle class populations are expanding. Furthermore, demand for natural gas as a feedstock for industrial manufacturing, fuel for transportation, and for electricity production -- in the U.S. and abroad -- is expected to grow for the next 20 years. Noble Energy is well-positioned for this trend.
2. Exposure to natural gas and the beginning of U.S. exports
Natural gas makes up the lion's share of Noble Energy's production and reserves, both domestically and internationally. The company's largest developed field is the Leviathan gas field in Israel, which is expected to produce natural gas for decades. Noble Energy recently signed a 15 year agreement with Jordan to supply it no less than 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from this field for power generation purposes. Noble Energy has a 39% working interest in the Leviathan field, and is the primary operator of the field, furthering its share of profits. The Leviathan field has an estimated 22 trillion cubic feet of known reserves, so the deal with Jordan only scratches the surface of its potential.
However, nearly 40% of the company's proved reserves are in the U.S., between onshore and offshore reserves. Starting in 2015, Cheniere Energy's (NYSEMKT:LNG) natural gas export terminal, located in Louisiana, will be the first of several large-scale export terminals to begin operation over the next decade. This access to new markets is expected to lead to a moderate price increase for domestic producers, and that should be a positive for producers like Noble Energy.
3. New midstream MLP should increase profits and reduce debt
In June, Noble Energy and partner CONSOL Energy (NYSE:CNX) announced they would create a master limited partnership with the joint venture midstream assets the companies currently share. By spinning off the midstream business into an MLP -- of which CONE Gathering LLC, the 50:50 joint venture between the two companies, will be general partner -- Noble Energy and CONSOL will be able to do two things: The first is raise capital from the markets by selling interest in the MLP to invest in the midstream business, and the second is to take advantage of an MLPs tax status as a partnership and potentially reduce corporate taxes.
Additionally, this step should help Noble Energy begin reducing debt, which management has stated is a clear goal. Considering that debt was more than $5 billion at the end of the last quarter, and that's up more than 25% since the beginning of 2013, using the MLP structure for its midstream business is a smart step.
A number of positives, but risks still worth consideration
While its midstream assets do provide some predictable source of income, Noble Energy is still at its heart an E&P, which brings along risks that can be largely out of its control. Even the company's international assets are both a risk and a source of upside, and chances are, Noble Energy's stock will be relatively volatile. Over the past 12 months, the stock has moved up or down more than 10% within a month at least seven times.
With that said, it's really important that you understand when Mister Market is moving the price based on information related to Noble Energy, and when it's just speculation based on things that have no relationship to the company's prospects. If you better understand these things, you're less likely to sell at a loss just because of a market reaction not related to the company directly.
Jason Hall has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.