New York-based integrated energy company Hess (HES) is working hard to get less integrated right now. The firm shut down the majority of its refining capacity in the last year, finally cutting the cord on the most consistently unprofitable part of its downstream operations. That leaves Hess with total proven reserves of 1.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in North America, Australia, North Africa and the Middle East, and more than 1,360 gas stations spread across the Eastern U.S.
Management showed guts by slashing at its refinery capacity. Disintegrating operations at an oil producer is a scary prospect for most, but with refinery operations becoming increasingly commoditized, it makes sense to unload the earnings drag. The fact that Hess was willing to do it means that management is willing to do more than just kick the can. I like that a lot.Like other smaller oil producers, Hess carries some balance sheet leverage with around $7.5 billion in debt. But with more than $850 million in cash and investments and a $4 billion credit facility, Hess isn't likely to have any liquidity problems in 2012. The firm's price to book ratio of 0.89 means that Hess is trading at a bargain during a time when crude spot prices sit just below $90. That makes Hess a bargain right now.
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