What: Shares of WPX Energy (NYSE:WPX) enjoyed a nice double-digit gain in November after the company delivered a solid third-quarter report.
So what: The quarter was highlighted by three achievements. First, WPX Energy set a new record for liquids production averaging 56,500 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids (or NGLs) per day during the quarter. Oil production was particularly strong at 35,000 barrels per day and it now accounts for 21% of total company production, up from 15% last year. Driving this oil-fueled growth was the company's San Juan Basin properties as well as the addition of the Permian Basin to its portfolio after closing the acquisition of RKI E&P this past August.
In addition to that, WPX Energy reduced its cash operating expenses by 21% over the third quarter of last year. This helped mute some of the sting from lower commodity prices. In fact, when combined with the shift toward higher-margin oil along with solid hedges, the company's adjusted EBITDAX increased to $240 million from $199 million in the third quarter of last year.
Finally, WPX Energy made solid progress on its goal to sell $400 million to $500 million in assets before the end of the year. During the quarter, it closed the $80 million sale of its Wyoming coal bed methane assets and signed a deal to sell its North Dakota gathering system for $185 million, which it subsequently closed in November. The proceeds from both sales are going toward debt reduction to help offset the recent Permian Basin acquisition.
Now what: WPX Energy is doing a solid job managing through the downturn by focusing on improving its margins via a shift toward oil while also reducing its costs. At the same time, the company is maintaining a solid balance sheet by jettisoning non-core assets to reduce debt. These moves have the company well positioned to survive the downturn so it can then create a lot of value when conditions improve.