In the fall of 2016, as oil prices began to recover in anticipation of an OPEC production cut, deal activity in U.S. shale basins steadily picked up, leading several analysts to contemplate who could be next to pare assets.
One fan favorite was Apache (APA) - Get APA Corp. Report , which continues to work through proving out its Alpine High oil discovery in west Texas' Permian Basin that it estimates could hold more than 15 billion barrels of oil and gas.
Seaport Global Securities LLC analysts said in the fall that Apache could part ways with its non-Alpine-High assets in the Permian or elsewhere, and while the company has not since announced a material divestiture, it has indeed been quietly shipping off noncore assets in recent months.
The Deal, TheStreet's sister publication focused on M&A, reported Friday that Apache is shopping an acreage package in the Central Basin Platform, a subformation of the Permian Basin. Apache would later confirm it is shopping the assets.
Apache was also said to be one of the sellers in Parsley Energy's (PE) - Get Parsley Energy, Inc. Class A Report Jan. 10, $607 million asset purchase. Apache had previously tapped bankers to market the assets involved in the sale, according to The Deal.
While it appears Apache has been reluctant to part ways with any material assets that would require a disclosure by the $20-billion company, it's reasonable to assume Apache is cleaning out the less favorable assets in its portfolio to make room in the budget for the evaluation and future development of its Alpine High assets.
Apache is certainly not alone in paring less profitable assets to boost drilling activity in the lucrative Permian Basin, especially as oil prices remain low. Exxon Mobil (XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report , Marathon Oil (MRO) - Get Marathon Oil Corporation Report and SM Energy (SM) - Get SM Energy Company Report have all swapped assets to break new ground in west Texas' favorite oil play.
For Apache the company is banking on the Alpine High and currently developing midstream assets to support the oil play. At the moment, the company has drilled just a handful of evaluation wells, which are shorter in depth and don't require the extensive capital that full horizontal wells do -- Delaware Basin wells cost more than $5 million on average in 2015 -- but the play is widely expected to one day involve the drilling of several thousand wells.
So these immaterial divestitures could one day turn into bigger offerings as the company really digs into the development stage of the Permian discovery.
In the meantime, however, the occasional infusion of $20 million -- the number Apache will likely garner in its latest sale process -- will probably suffice for a company that reported $1.4 billion in cash and cash equivalents as at the end of the fourth quarter.
Apache shares trades down 1.5% Tuesday as oil slumped on higher global production growth forecasts.