In the oil industry, 2014 will likely be remembered more for falling oil prices in the second half than anything else. That's too bad, because companies like Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) actually had pretty good years. That was one of two big takeaways that CEO Al Walker wanted to make sure everyone understood when he discussed last year's results. He was pretty positive about the future, too.
According to the CEO, "Our operational performance in 2014 was outstanding and Anadarko's employees delivered a tremendous year across the board." That's backed up by some pretty impressive numbers.
For example, the company increased its liquids production by around 26%, and had a replacement rate of more than 160%. Meanwhile, the company was able to produce free cash flow of $150 million. Those are some pretty solid positives, even though falling oil prices meant the top line was lower year over year in the fourth quarter.
Finally done with that
Although not a fourth-quarter event, Walker also wanted investors to know that, "In January [Anadarko] resolved the Tronox Advisory proceeding" at a cost of around $5.2 billion." That's a big chunk of change, but it puts a lingering issue behind the company. Anadarko purchased Tronox more than six years ago, and has been dealing with this legacy lawsuit regarding pollution claims for a very long time. It's a good thing that it's behind the company and now paid for.
Walker was honest about the market today: "We're approaching 2015 with a great deal of caution as are many companies but Anadarko will focus on preserving value and flexibility rather than chasing growth in a lower return environment." Like so many others, Anadarko is looking to pull in its horns this year. Although Walker wasn't giving specifics, when pressed by an analyst he explained, "I think it would be fair to say that you can anticipate... that our capital plan for 2015 will be significantly lower than it was for 2014."
...But we are still spending
That doesn't mean, however, that the company is cutting its plans short. For example, Anadarko has a Gulf of Mexico project that delivered its first oil in mid January, and another that's on target to start producing next year. It also has projects in Ghana that are expected to augment production this year and next. So the outlook is pretty good on the production front, even if Anadarko trims its capital spending because of low oil prices. Keep an eye on the progress here -- it should be a long-term positive even if low oil prices dim the near-term impact of increased production.
The big picture view
That gets to one of the other big takeaways Walker wants shareholders to understand: "We believe the portfolio we've designed, coupled with our approach to capital allocation and portfolio management has shown the ability to deliver outstanding results and it will continue to serve our shareholders well in the future."
While that sounds a little like a marketing pitch, perhaps even a pat on Walker's own back, 2014 was a solid year operationally and, notably, included the divestiture of around $2.5 billion worth of non-core assets. Walker has a point: Anadarko has been able to perform well in a tough environment while working with its asset base to build for the future.
A diamond in the rough?
While the oil-price decline is the headline issue throughout the energy industry, there are companies like Anadarko that are surviving the turmoil in a relatively strong fashion. CEO Walker wants you to know that, and perhaps see his company as something of a diamond in the rough. Assuming Anadarko can keep executing like it did in 2014, there's every reason to believe its merits will shine through when oil prices recover.