WPX Energy Divests Apco Stake Ahead of Strategy Rollout

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A key report from analysts and the announcement of a long-sought divestiture of international assets are likely to boost WPX Energy (WPX) shares Friday and into next week, as the company's new management prepares for the rollout of its long-term strategy next Thursday. 

Even with falling oil prices, exploration and production company WPX Energy is expected to ramp shareholder value through 2015, according to Deutsche Bank analysts.

"WPX will release its strategy rollout and hold a conference call the morning of Oct 9th," Deutche Bank analysts said in the report. "Our view has been that incoming CEO [Rick] Muncrief brings a much needed sense of urgency and strategic focus to WPX."

Deutsche Bank analysts emphasized refocusing the company on developing its core assets in the Midwest as the means to return to growth.

An overly diversified legacy asset base, inconsistent approach to capital allocation, and disadvantaged cost structure all supported underperformance over the past ~2+ years as a stand-alone entity. All contribute to the most significant opportunity for improvement amongst the mid-cap E&P peers. New management understands the opportunity, and we expect a return to growth while high grading the asset base and improving the relative cost structure.

We view the stock as a multi-year turn-around opportunity.

The analysts rate the stock a "buy" with a $29 price target. WPX shares were up 1.3% at $23.65 in early trading Friday.

The core of WPX Energy's business is in natural gas, natural gas liquids and oil through domestic exploration and production in the San Juan Basin in New Mexico and the Piceance Basin in Colorado. The company also has domestic holdings in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale and North Dakota's Bakken formation (part of the larger Williston Basin).

Late Thursday, Oct. 2, the company announced the divestiture of most of its international holdings with the approval of the sale of Apco Oil and Gas (APAGF) , in which WPX owns a 69% stake, to privately held Pluspetrol Resources for $14.50 a share, an 18% premium to Apco's closing price Thursday of $12.30. Apco has operations in Argentina and Colombia. The sale returns $294 million to WPX Energy.

While Deutsche Bank's report was compiled ahead of the Apco news, the analysts anticipated the divestiture of Latin American assets as part of WPX Energy's refocusing effort. According to the report:

Another goal of the update, in our view, will be to show the Street what is core vs. non-core in the portfolio. With the sale of the PRB gas assets earlier this year, we look for an update on the potential divestitures of APCO (Argentina) and San Juan Basin gas production (~105-110MMcfpd). We also anticipate a more definitive view on the Marcellus (~75-85MMcfpd), with the pipeline capacity on Millennium pipeline increasingly valuable in this environment.

Muncrief came on board in May 2014, promising "a transformation of this company that we and our shareholders are proud of. That's why I'm here."

-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in New York

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