The KLR Group issued a slew of upgrades and downgrades Monday in advance of second quarter earnings announcements.
The investment bank said it had upgraded Sanchez Energy (SN) to buy from hold with a $9 price target while moving Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO - Get Report) , EP Energy (EPE - Get Report) , Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD - Get Report) and Synergy Resources (SYRG) to buy from accumulate. It has a $49 share price target for Carrizo, $6.50 for EP Energy, $218 for Pioneer and $9 for Synergy.
KLR also downgraded Continental Resources (CLR - Get Report) , Consol Energy (CNX - Get Report) and Devon Energy (DVN - Get Report) to accumulate from buy on valuation given their substantial share price appreciation over the past four months. The firm has a $54 price target on Continental, a $20 price target for Consol and a $44 price target on Devon.
KLR expects the U.S. exploration and production industry's cost intensity to decline another 10% this year as capital spending is rationalized another 45%. But it said it anticipates spending to ultimately increase about 70% "assuming a substantive recovery in commodity prices," the firm said.
Carrizo could be one of the companies ramping up, as it told analysts from Seaport Global Securities recently that it could possibly drill five to eight more gross wells this year with its current equipment. The firm has the company's stock at accumulate with a $44 price target.
Sanchez has been shedding assets through the downturn, most recently selling its half stake in the Carnero gas gathering pipeline to affiliate Sanchez Production partners SPP for $37 million earlier this month. CEO Tony Sanchez said the company would use the proceeds for acquisitions and organic growth.
Pioneer has already been going after acquisitions, including picking up assets in West Texas' Midland Basin from Devon last month for $435 million that it funded with proceeds from a stock offering. Synergy has been active as well, scooping up properties in Colorado from Noble Energy (NBL - Get Report) for $505 million, also with proceeds from an equity offering.
While KLR is high on EP Energy, the company isn't getting much love from Jefferies. It said in a report Monday it was resuming coverage of the company with an underperform rating and a $3 price target.
Analyst Jonathan Wolff explained that while the company has taken steps to improve its financial leverage, including asset sales, discounted bond repurchases and reduced capital expenditures, significant headwinds remain, including high debt, expiring hedges, rapidly declining volumes and a relatively thin asset development portfolio.
Meanwhile, Continental Resources is rated a buy by Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., which expects it to accelerate activity in the Dakotas' Williston Basin once oil prices firm to an estimated $65 per barrel in the fourth quarter. And it will only cost $75 million to do so, bringing the company's capital expenditures to $1 billion with $300 million of free cash flow at the current strip.
Devon has downsized further since the Pioneer sale, announcing last week that it sold its half stake in the Access Pipeline to Canada Pension Plan Investment Board-backed Wolf Midstream for $1.1 billion. The deal completed its $3.2 billion divestiture program above its target -- and positions it to further accelerate investment in what it considers its best plays, the Stack Oklahoma and the Delaware Basin in West Texas.