What: November was a solid month for Parsley Energy (NYSE:PE), with the Permian Basin driller's stock price rising double digits. Earnings and an analyst upgrade were the dual catalysts fueling the strong performance.
So what: Parsley Energy reported a strong third quarter, highlighted by a 41% year-over-year surge in production. Despite that rapid growth, its lease operating costs are down 16% year over year, which -- when combined with its strong oil hedges -- enabled the company to grow its net cash provided by operating activities from $71.1 million in the third quarter of last year to $110.5 million this past quarter.
That solid performance as well as the company's future potential led Scotia Howard Weil to upgrade the stock. The price target was boosted from $22 to $25 while the rating moved from Sector Outperform to Focus Stock. In the report, Scotia pointed out Parsley's solid balance sheet -- with a net debt-to-EBITDA ratio that will trend lower in 2016 -- and strong hedging program as key reasons for its upgrade.
Parsley Energy is clearly playing from the right downturn playbook, which shouldn't come as a surprise given that CEO Bryan Sheffield is a third-generation oil man, with his dad Scott being the current CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD). Bryan has really mirrored a lot of what has made Pioneer Natural Resources so successful during the downturn, including maintaining very low leverage and hedging the bulk of his company's oil production. Those two factors have really cushioned the blow of weak oil prices.
Now what: Parsley Energy, like Pioneer Natural Resources, remains well positioned to not just survive the downturn but actually thrive by increasing production. While the that doesn't mean the stock price won't be volatile alongside the price of oil, Parsley does appear poised to come out of the downturn even stronger than it entered.