Saudi Arabia's merciless oil price war has battered the operating results and stocks of many North American shale producers. According to a report this month, half of U.S-based shale drillers my go bankrupt this year.
But amid the carnage in the domestic energy patch, there's one shale company that's not only surviving, but also thumbing its nose at the sheikhdom.
If you're looking for a hot energy stock but are nervous about the sector's volatility and the protracted slide in oil prices, consider Devon Energy (DVN) - Get Report , based in Oklahoma City. It's a swift-moving stock that you should grab now, before the investment herd makes it too pricey.
The oil and gas producer's stock soared 9.4% on Thursday, as West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose 92 cents, or 2.8%, to $33.22 a barrel.
The stock closed Thursday at $26.79. The median 12-month price target from analysts covering the stock is $45, which suggests shares can gain 68%. The highest price target is $70, which implies a gain of 161%.
What separates Devon from its beleaguered competitors? Through asset sales and joint-venture proceeds, Devon has been able to make ambitious but methodical and sustainable investments in Permian Basin projects, avoiding the debt that has hobbled Chesapeake Energy, Oasis Petroleum and others.
Over the past week, the price of U.S. benchmark WTI crude oil has risen 9.5%, as rumors of talks between the Saudis and Russians have fueled hopes that production at last will be curtailed. That's been good news for companies such as Devon.
With a market capitalization of $11.01 billion, Devon's drilling rigs are tapping shale formations in Oklahoma and Texas, as well as oil sands in Canada. The company's big opportunities these days lay beneath the Permian Basin of West Texas. It's a strong player, with earnings momentum and low debt, in a beaten-down but important sector -- just the sort of stock that Warren Buffett would love.
Devon is operating 19,000 producing wells across 1.3 million net acres in the Permian Basin. The Permian is no upstart: It has been producing crude since 1921 and its potential remains enormous. The total recoverable resource potential of the biggest formations in the Permian Basin is roughly 75 billion barrels of oil equivalent, second only to the massive Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia.
Devon reported third-quarter 2015 adjusted earnings per share of 76 cents, 46% higher than the Wall Street estimate of 52 cents. Although lower than its EPS of $1.34 in the year-ago quarter, the company's recent earnings strength is remarkable given the current struggles of its peers.
Robust cash flow, low debt and a strong balance sheet, combined with prolific production, are helping Devon overcome the energy sector's fierce headwinds. If you're looking for an energy stock that will survive any shakeout that results from the Saudi-instigated price wars, Devon is it.
As we've just explained, Devon is a swift-moving stock that you should grab now. It's the sort of opportunistic stock that master investor Warren Buffett bought early in his career to kick-start his wealth. For a complete list of what Buffett is buying and selling right now, download our free report.
John Persinos is editorial manager and investment analyst at Investing Daily. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.