McMoRan Exploration's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

McMoRan Exploration (MMR)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 17, 2012 10:00 am ET

Executives

Kathleen L. Quirk - Senior Vice President and Treasurer

Richard C. Adkerson - Co-Chairman

James R. Moffett - Co-Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President

Analysts

Leon G. Cooperman - Omega Advisors, Inc.

Noel A. Parks - Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc., Research Division

Joseph D. Allman - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Joan E. Lappin - Gramercy Capital Management Corp.

Gregg Brody - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the McMoRan Exploration Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms. Kathleen Quirk, Senior Vice President and Treasurer. Please go ahead, ma'am.

Kathleen L. Quirk

Thank you, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to the McMoRan Exploration First Quarter 2012 Conference Call. Our results were released earlier this morning, and a copy of the press release is available on our website at mcmoran.com. Our conference call today is being broadcast live on the Internet, and anyone may listen to the conference call by accessing our website home page and clicking on the webcast link for the conference call. As usual, we have several slides to supplement our comments this morning and we will be referring to these slides during the call. The slides are also accessible using our webcast link at mcmoran.com. In addition to analysts and investors, the financial press has been invited to listen to today's call and a replay of the webcast will be available on our website later today. Before we begin our comments, we'd like to remind everyone that today's press release and certain of our comments on this call include forward-looking statements. We'd like to refer everyone to the cautionary language included in our press release and presentation materials and to the risk factors described in our SEC filings. On the call today are McMoRan's Co-Chairmen, Jim Bob Moffett and Richard Adkerson. I'll start by briefly summarizing our financial results and then I should turn the call over to Richard, who will be reviewing our recent performance and outlook. As usual after our remarks, we'll open up the call for questions.

Today, McMoRan reported a net loss applicable to common stock of $4.9 million or $0.03 per share for the first quarter of 2012 compared with a net loss applicable to common stock of $27.6 million, $0.17 per share for the first quarter of 2011. Our first quarter 2012 results included $7.1 million in impairment charges to reduce certain fields' net carrying value to fair value. The first quarter 2012 production averaged 156 million cubic feet of equivalents per day net to McMoRan compared with 195 million cubic feet of equivalent in the first quarter of 2011. Our first quarter 2012 production was in line with our previously reported estimate of 155 million a day. Our first quarter 2012 oil and gas revenues totaled $107 million compared to $134 million during the first quarter of 2011. Our realized gas prices in the first quarter of 2012 were $2.59 per Mcf compared with $4.54 per Mcf in the year-ago period. And our realized prices for oil and condensate averaged $113 per barrel in the first quarter of 2012, which were higher than last year's period of $97 per barrel. Our earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and exploration expense, or EBITDAX, totaled $61 million in the first quarter of 2012, and our operating cash flows, which were net of $11.7 million in abandonment expenditures and $4.9 million in working capital requirements, totaled $38.8 million for the first quarter of 2012. Our capital expenditures totaled $165 million in the first quarter of 2012, and we ended the quarter with total debt of $555 million, which included $255 million in convertible securities. And we ended the quarter at March 31, 2012, with $432 million in cash. And now I'd like to turn the call over to Richard, who'll be referring to the materials on our website.

Richard C. Adkerson

Good morning, everyone. I'll review the slides and Jim Bob is here to then follow-up with his comments and to answer questions. Where we are today, of course, is that we have had success with our geologic model in identifying these major new sub-salt trends, which go over 200-plus miles in the shelf of the Gulf of Mexico and extend onshore in to South Louisiana. We are targeting prospects on very larger sub-salt structures that have multi-Tcf potential. Drilling these wells has been a process of developing new technology to be able to drill and ultimately produce these wells. And we've made very significant advances in drilling where the industry has not drilled before. Success will provide us an opportunity to have a very large low-cost, long-term source of natural gas. Kathleen has reviewed our first quarter financial data, which is shown on Page 4. Our production was in line with our outlook. Our loss reflected these impairment charges. We had just under $40 million of operating cash flows, which we combined with our available cash to fund $165 million of CapEx. And we ended the quarter with $432 million of cash.

Page 5 shows our ultra-deep findings to date. It was over 10 years ago that we started with McMoRan to drill above salt to test Miocene targets that had been known to be productive onshore. Then with our transaction with new field just under 4 years ago, we began -- we got access to the Blackbeard West No. 1 well, which had been drilled and suspended by consortium. We reentered that well and reached a total depth of roughly 33,000 feet, saw potentially productive Miocene sands, Oligocene sands and established that we could drill in this kind of high-pressure, high-temperature environment. The Davy Jones No. 1 well then extended this concept by seeing 200 feet of Wilcox Age Sands in a well that was drilled 29,000 feet. The Davy Jones No. 2 well, which we're in the process of testing the No. 1 well, the No. 2 well. We then saw a whole suite of sands in the Wilcox, the Tuscaloosa and the Lower Cretaceous. Drilling in the Blackbeard complex, we have drilled the Blackbeard East well, which saw significant sands in the Miocene, and it reached over 33,000 feet in the Eocene and we saw a 300-feet section in the Sparta Carbonate. The Lafitte well, which we recently released information for us, saw a whole suite of sands at shallower depths in the Miocene and extended all the way through the Eocene into the Sparta. So the theory of tying in these productive horizons that have been so successful onshore with the deepwater drilling is a theory that's holding together. We're showing technically we can identify these structures and drill them in a way that can be done safely.

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