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After overcoming serious woes, Encana (ECA) - Get Encana Corporation Report  is positioned to be a growth stock winner.

Shares of the upstream energy company have doubled in 2016. Written off this year, despite having good liquidity and a sizable reserve base, Canada's Encana has stumped critics and gained momentum.

The company's asset sales and focus on core areas should boost credit metrics next year. Encana's debt-reduction initiatives so far have been smart moves.

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Buy Encana shares with a medium- to long-term outlook.

Citigroup recently upgraded Encana to buy from neutral with a $13 price target. Citigroup expects Encana's total organic production to rise at a nearly 12% compound annual growth rate through 2021.

Organic oil/liquid volumes are projected to grow faster.

These are good reasons to buy this large-capitalization exploration and production company.

As recently as a few years ago, Encana was a heavily debt-laden natural-gas company, but it is now a much leaner and smarter oil growth firm poised for long-term capital appreciation.

Although Encana expects the commodity mix to continue to balance out, it projects that corporate margins will nearly double even at flat prices through 2021. The company is poised to take advantage of up to 60% production growth.

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The company has more than 20,000 total inventory locations through its core assets of Duvernay, Eagle Ford, and Permian. This would mean that cash flow growth could easily double.

Encana's moves to reduce cut net debt by more than $2 billion and accumulate savings have provided more breathing room.

This company looks like a much better investment pick than large-capitalization E&P peers such as Pengrowth Energy and Suncor Energy. Pengrowth Energy suffers from high debt, and though Suncor Energy pays a 4.2% dividend yield, it may need to cut capital expenditure spending sharply to boost cash flow next year and raise dividends.

Meanwhile, Encana recently sold $1 billion in stock. With its shares having appreciated quite a bit, Encana took a route followed by peers such as Pioneer Natural Resources by selling shares to fund growth.

Equity issuances have allowed many companies to fund production growth while maintaining a rock-solid balance sheet. Producers such as Chesapeake Energy are in a tough spot because they issued debt to fund new wells.

Encana has assembled one of the premier-quality exploration and production portfolios in its coverage, according to Morningstar.

In the upstream business, assets are a big advantage. Trading at a price-sales ratio of 2.6 times, Encana is a value buy compared with industry peers such as Apache (4.9 times), EOG Resources (7.3 times) and Pioneer Natural Resources (6 times).

With a solid 2017 and a longer period of stable growth in sight, along with stable cash flow, Encana shares are a good buy, even after their recent surge.


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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.