Energy Business

US Oil Production Plunges: 3 Companies That Should Be Profitable This Year

Everybody knew that the staggering drop in oil prices would make capital expenditures plummet. In fact, a new report from Jefferies suggests that capex budgets will drop a stunning 50% year over year, and oil production in the United States will drop 11%, which is up from the firm’s previous estimates of down 9%. Natural gas production is estimated to be down 6.5% Given the huge decline in the price of oil, investors may wonder if anybody will make money this year?

We wondered the same thing, so we screened the Jefferies research universe in the energy exploration and production sector, looking for companies that were rated Buy and also were expected to make money this year. We found just three companies that met those criteria. For investors looking for energy stocks to add to portfolios, these make good sense.

Carrizo Oil & Gas

This is a top energy stock for value buyers to consider. Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc. (NASDAQ: CRZO) is a Houston-based energy company actively engaged in the exploration, development and production of oil and gas from resource plays located in the United States. Carrizo’s current operations are principally focused in proven, producing oil and gas plays, primarily in the Eagle Ford Shale, the Utica Shale in Ohio, the Niobrara Formation in Colorado and the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.

Many on Wall Street see the company as one of the best positioned due to the low breakeven costs, solid operating scale and a very good balance sheet with ample liquidity. The analysts point out the stock has shown some weakness on balance sheet and funding concerns, but that it has a minimal funding gap, and salable non-core assets if needed.

With hedges above the industry average, and an outstanding management team, the Jefferies analysts think the company will post total earnings in 2016 of a remarkable $1.41 per share. The company posted outstanding fourth-quarter results at the end of February.

The Jefferies price target for the stock is $29. The Thomson/First Call consensus target is higher at $35.50. Shares closed Thursday at $25.55, up 6.24% on the day.

Gulfport Energy

This is a favorite around Wall Street among the smaller, more nimble companies. Gulfport Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: GPOR) is an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company with its principal producing properties located in the Utica Shale of Eastern Ohio and along the Louisiana Gulf Coast. In addition, Gulfport holds a sizable acreage position in the Alberta Oil Sands in Canada through its 24.9% interest in Grizzly Oil Sands.

Gulfport is a favorite of hedge fund managers. In fact, according to Insider Monkey, at the end of last year as many as 36 hedge funds owned positions in the stock. The shares have been weak on gas prices and a lower growth outlook, a move lower many believe is overdone. With a multiple in line with peers and an expected ramp-up in production this year, the stock may be a great value at current levels, despite last week’s big rally.

The Jefferies team expect the company to post earnings per share of $0.65 this year and even higher in 2017.

Jefferies has a $33 price target on Gulfport Energy, and the consensus analyst target is at $34.18. The stock closed Thursday at $25.27 per share.

Rice Energy

This company recently has started to catch some upgrades around Wall Street. Rice Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: RICE) an independent natural gas and oil company engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development of natural gas, oil and natural gas liquid properties in the Appalachian Basin. The company operates through two segments: Exploration and Production, and Midstream. As of December 31, 2014, it held approximately 86,000 net acres in the southwestern core of the Marcellus Shale and approximately 55,000 net acres in the southeastern core of the Utica Shale, located in Belmont County, Ohio.

Some on Wall Street see the company as a solid takeover candidate and think the potential for 20% or more growth over the next few years exists. Some analysts also have cited the fact that the midstream asset portfolio provides balance sheet flexibility, and they think that a capital outspend will be required through 2017 to achieve 20% growth. The Jefferies team sees the company posting earnings per share of $0.33 this year.

The Jefferies price target for the stock is $16, while the consensus price objective is set at $15.51. Shares closed Thursday at $9.96 apiece.

While these earnings estimates are what the Jefferies team has now, and could always change as the year drags on, it makes sense for investors looking for energy exposure to buy companies that can still post positive earnings in what surely will be another difficult year for the industry.