What: Shares of Apache Corp. (NYSE:APA) were unable to fend off the onslaught of oil prices in July, despite the favorable recommendations that investment banks and research firms handed out on the company's stock.
So what: It seems that Apache has been in perpetual turnaround mode for the past several years. First it unloaded several of its international assets to focus on shale drilling here in the United States. Now, it's still in the process of unloading assets to pare down its debt load and remain focused on what it deems its three core areas of operation: American shale drilling, Egypt, and the North Sea. It has done a rather commendable job recently, as it has unloaded both its Australia operations and its interest in the Kitimat LNG facility in Canada for a cool $5.2 billion.
It appears that focusing on these regions and reducing its net debt load from $12 billion at the beginning of the year to $6.7 billion today caught analysts' attention. In July, Citibank upgraded shares of Apache to "buy," and three other research firms reiterated their buy recommendations.
However, not even the most glowing recommendations from research firms are going to make up for the fact that oil prices plunged to the $50 per barrel range in July both domestically and internationally. This is the second time this year oil has hit these lows, and the possibility that these low prices could last a while has investors in energy nervous.
Now what: Apache's most recent quarterly results helped those buy recommendations a bit. After taking out the $5.6 billion in assets it wrote down for the quarter, Apache beat analyst estimates for revenue and earnings. It was a rather modest income boost of $0.22 per share, but in today's market we can take that. If Apache can continue to improve its financials though some more debt reduction and continue to squeeze out some marginal profits at today's prices, then perhaps cheap oil isn't a death sentence for Apache. If that's the case, then perhaps it's worth keeping Apache on your radar.