As you've probably noticed, oil prices have taken a dive this year. In fact, crude oil in the United States recently fell to $79 per barrel. That's a multi-year low for West Texas Intermediate and a 27% decline from the price per barrel reached just a few months ago. While that's great news for consumers who will spend less at the pump and keep more of their discretionary income, it's terrible news for oil and gas companies.
Because of what's happening in the oil market, this earnings season was supposed to be a disaster for oil and gas companies, and particularly for companies in the exploration and production industry, as those companies are even more highly sensitive to fluctuations in oil prices than their larger integrated peers are. However, Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) proved its doubters wrong by posting strong third-quarter results that beat the overarching fears of a major slowdown in the oil and gas industry.
Here is a breakdown of Anadarko's results, as well as the strategic decisions made that helped fuel its successful quarter.
Strategic moves are producing results
Anadarko has worked aggressively to divest non-core assets and reinvest the proceeds in the oil and gas fields it deems most attractive for future development. Last quarter alone, Anadarko closed on the $1.075 billion sale of its China unit, and it also closed on $1.2 billion worth of additional divestments. Those moves left the company in a strong financial position, with $8.3 billion of cash on hand. Going forward, it will use its financial resources to expand in its key portfolio assets.
One of the company's areas of focus is the Wattenberg field, a large natural gas field located in Colorado's Denver Basin, where Anadarko recently embarked on a horizontal drilling program that has produced excellent results. That, in conjunction with midstream expansions, helped Anadarko to grow sales volumes at Wattenberg by 87% last quarter, year over year. Anadarko also has strong acreage positions in the Eagle Ford and Wolfcamp fields.
Separately, Anadarko is heavily involved in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The company has invested huge resources there in a massive new project that's nearing completion. The Lucius project is on schedule, and first oil is expected within the next few weeks.
Because of the company's strategic initiatives undertaken over the past year, Anadarko's underlying fundamentals are improving. Last quarter, earnings soared to $2.12 per diluted share, up from just $0.36 earned in the same period last year. Of course, it needs to be stated that most of this performance was due to one-time events that aren't part of the company's core operating activities. For example, Anadarko realized approximately $1 billion on gains from derivatives and divestitures.
Still, even when excluding these items, Anadarko still had a good quarter. Production stayed strong, despite the drop in oil prices over the past several months. Anadarko's sales volumes of oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids rose 14% last quarter, year over year, to an average of 849,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day, a figure that includes adjusting for its divestments. Because of the strong progress seen over the first several months of 2014, Anadarko management increased its sales volume forecast for the remainder of the year.
Production growth should provide shelter from the storms
The oil and gas industry looks like a scary business right now, what with the carnage rippling through the energy markets. The price of oil has collapsed in just the past few months, which is showing up in the earnings reports out of Big Oil. However, not all oil and gas companies are struggling. Anadarko Petroleum is thriving, despite the decline in oil prices. That's because Anadarko is benefiting from an aggressive divestment strategy, which has allowed the company to simultaneously shed underperforming projects as well as raise funds necessary to fuel expansion in higher-performing areas.
It also allowed Anadarko to post strong results last quarter, as well as increase its forecast for the remainder of the year.
Bob Ciura and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.