Encana Corp. (NYSE: ECA) had a tough start to 2018. After rallying to just over $14 by mid-January, its shares have traded under $11 for most of the past month after getting caught up in the big market sell-off at the end of January and the start of February. But after forming a solid base closer to $10.50, Encana stock may be poised to generate solid returns for investors. There may even be as much as 50% upside if some of the Wall Street analysts are right.
Encana is in the exploration and production of natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids in Canada and the United States. As the company owns interests in multiple projects in multiple geographies, there are many moving parts to the equation. Its Canadian plays are in Montney in northern British Columbia and Alberta, Duvernay in Alberta, Wheatland in Alberta, Horn River in British Columbia, and Deep Panuke in the offshore of Nova Scotia. Its American plays consist of stakes and interests in Eagle Ford and Permian shale plays in in Texas, San Juan in New Mexico, Piceance in Colorado, and Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The call for 50% upside is derived in part from an analyst target and in part from its dividend. It turns out that multiple analysts see this sort of gain coming for Encana investors. Encana had a Thomson Reuters consensus analyst target price for its U.S.-listed shares close to $15 at the start of 2018, but that consensus target is now up at $16.05.
Encana was raised to Outperform from In-Line with a $16 price target at Evercore ISI on March 7. The stock traded at $10.84 prior to Evercore ISI assigning the big upside, but Encana went down to $10.70 after the call, before it rose to $10.96 by Friday’s close. That barely made the 50% upside mark when you consider 49.5% upside to the target price after the pullback and then add in the 0.5% yield.
While this call was more optimistic than some other calls, it is just not that common to see close to 50% upside in most analyst calls in $10 billion companies. Most of the traditional new and reiterated Buy and Outperform ratings come with upside of 8% to 10% in Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 stocks, and sometimes that implied upside to the price target can be as much as 15% or 20%.
JPMorgan reiterated its Overweight rating and raised its target to $17 from $16 late in February. That call said that the true growth engines lie with the Permian and Montney plays. The firm noted that Montney remains underappreciated by U.S. investors and noted that Encana still looks reasonable and cheap relative to its oil and gas peers.
Jefferies was less positive in Encana shares late in February, lowering its quarterly earnings estimate. Still, it has a Buy rating and a $17 target. The firm sees Encana hitting a target of $500 million in free cash flow in 2019.
UBS started Encana with a Buy rating, and positive ratings and upgrades had been seen from Societe Generale, Morgan Stanley and Desjardins since the start of 2018.
Encana also saw multiple insider transactions late in February, with insiders buying rights and shares.
Encana may be hard for some U.S. investors to figure out because of so many moving parts and because it’s a Canadian company. That being said, there just are not that many times that you see analysts issue 50% upside calls in companies with $10 billion market caps.
Encana’s U.S.-listed shares closed at $10.96 on Friday, and they have a 52-week trading range of $8.01 to $14.31.
Those shares were down as low as under $4 back in early 2016 during the energy price panic, but it was a $20 briefly in 2014.