Cabot Oil & Gas' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Cabot Oil & Gas (COG)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 26, 2012 9:30 am ET


Dan O. Dinges - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Member of Executive Committee

Jeffrey W. Hutton - Vice President of Marketing

James M. Reid - Vice President and Manager of South Region


Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Amir Arif - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Eli Kantor - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

Pearce W. Hammond - Simmons & Company International, Research Division

Michael A. Hall - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

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

Joseph Stewart - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Raymond J. Deacon - Brean Murray, Carret & Co., LLC, Research Division

Marshall H. Carver - Capital One Southcoast, Inc., Research Division



Good day, and welcome to the Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation's First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Dan Dinges, Chairman, President and CEO of Cabot Gas.

Dan O. Dinges

Thank you, Shea. I appreciate it. And good morning, and thank you for joining us for this call. A couple of members with me on the management team, Scott Schroeder, CFO; Jeff Hutton, our VP of Marketing; Steve Lindeman, VP of Engineering and Technology; Matt Reid, our VP of Regional -- and Regional Manager; and Todd Liebl, our VP of Land and Business Development.

As you're aware, the standard forward-looking statements included in the press release do apply to my comments today. At this time, we have several things to cover and expand on the press releases that were issued last night. I'll cover the first quarter financial results, recent successes from our drill bit effort, followed by a discussion of our operations.

Now before I do go into the details of these topics, I'll start with a brief highlight of last night's release. Cabot grew production 58% over the comparable quarter last year, including a 55% growth in natural gas plus an impressive 138% growth in liquids. The growth figures include only a few days of the new production we recently brought online in the Marcellus coming from a 7-mile step-out to the east of our existing production. The wells have free flowed 70 million to 80 million-plus cubic foot per day since being turned in line. Also of note are increasing liquids production. It's continuing in both Oklahoma and Texas. Plus, we'll cover briefly the initial down-spacing success we had in our Buckhorn area of the Eagle Ford. And finally, we're excited to announce our exposure to the Utica liquids window of about 50,000 net acres. This potential will be tested with a well to spud this summer.

Let's move to financial results in last night. The company recorded clean earnings of approximately $29 million driven by our significant production increase that did more than offset the weak natural gas prices.

On the production side, in terms of the significant uptick in production, the Marcellus, Eagle Ford, and to a little bit lesser extent, the Marmaton were the driving forces. One item to note is that the 2011 first quarter results include 2.5 Bcf of Rocky Mountain production, which we sold last year. The equivalent pro forma growth would be about 70% regardless that the quarter was a record breaker production-wise.

The first quarter production landed at the midpoint of guidance even with the shutdown of the Lathrop Compressor Station during the last days of the quarter. This event will not change our full year production guidance of 35% to 50% growth, which we reaffirmed last night. Our net exit rate for natural gas for the quarter was approximately 623 million cubic foot per day, while oil was 5,870 barrels per day. With the completion successes in April, some of which are provided in the operations release, April's net production has averaged 655 million cubic foot per day for gas and 6,500 barrels of oil per day, which provide the basis for modeling the second quarter.

For cost guidance, we updated other taxes to fully reflect the new impact fee in Pennsylvania. Additionally, we updated exploration expense and discussed pension expense.

Let's talk about our plans a little bit. The Cabot operation plan remains basically unchanged for 2012. We continue to focus our capital allocation towards our drilling in the Marcellus, and the remainder of our capital dollars are being allocated in the oil window of the Eagle Ford and into the Marmaton. Currently, we have 7 rigs operating in our plays between Pennsylvania, Texas and Oklahoma. We remain committed to balancing these efforts with our anticipated cash flow. However, as you might be aware of the forward curve lower than our February forecast, our plan does result in slightly more utilization of the revolver this year.

We have been asked the question a number of times, will we slow down or change our investment program? Really, my answer is this, that with the strength of the balance sheet and our objective to secure our acreage in the vast -- maybe the only return gas play in the country, and with the continued growth of our liquids production in Texas and Oklahoma, we plan to keep our operation program as budgeted.

And regarding hedging, the company did not add any hedges since our February call. Our existing hedges are on the website and represent 39% of midpoint guidance. We also have 7 contracts in 2013, 5 gas and 2 oil. We continue to look at potential for hedging a portion of our oil production as we increase that production strength, but we do not anticipate hedging gas at these levels.

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