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Pioneer Natural Jumps as Merrill Lynch Forecasts New Drilling Success

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Pioneer Natural Resources Co ( PXD) hit a 12-month high on Tuesday after Bank of America Merrill Lynch added the oil and gas exploration company to its "best ideas" list.

Pioneer was adding 2% to $155.37, a 52-week high. Shares have risen 45% this year.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts led by Doug Leggate said in a note published today that Pioneer Natural is drilling new wells in its Texas Permian Basin 900,000 acre property which may yield more oil than the company has forecast. The Irving, Texas- based company began production at a horizontal shale in the northern area of the property earlier this year, moving away from the already developed southern section.

"Management's current guidance assumes average northern Wolfcamp wells yield an EUR [Estimated Ultimate Return] of 500 Mboe [Million Barrels of Oil Equivalent]; however, this is assessed across multiple horizontal targets and contrasts with recent well results that suggest to us recoveries could be north of 650 Mboe" the analysts wrote.

Merrill Lynch has set a $200 price target for Pioneer if the results are consistent with the drilling company's expectations. However, if results are as profitable as the other northern wells and yield as much as 800 Mboe, the analysts state in the report that "Our theoretical NAV would be closer to $328/share."

The oil and gas exploration and production company has increased revenue in the past year by 6% to $836.1 million. Pioneer currently holds a market capitalization of $20.07 billion and the rank of 3rd largest driller in the country.

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