APACHE CORP. $62 (New York symbol APA; Aggressive Growth Portfolio, Resources sector; WSSF Rating: Average) explores for and produces oil and natural gas in North America, the UK, Australia, Argentina, China and Egypt. In 2005, oil accounted for 54% of its production, while gas supplied 46%.
In the past few years, Apache has expanded its operations in the Gulf of Mexico. It currently operates over 400 offshore platforms, which accounted for 18% of its 2005 production.
Oil companies have operated in the Gulf of Mexico for 60 years. But many of the bigger firms are now looking elsewhere for new reserves, because the yearly threat of hurricane damage increases the risk of drilling in the Gulf. That’s why BP recently sold its remaining operations in the Gulf to Apache for $1.3 billion.
This is a sizeable purchase for Apache, which earned $1.97 a share (total $660.9 million) in the first quarter of 2006, up 18.0% from $1.67 a share ($560.5 million) a year earlier. Cash flow per share grew 24.0%, to $3.16 from $2.55, while revenue grew 17.6%, to $2.0 billion from $1.7 billion.
Apache’s long experience operating in the Gulf helps cut the risk of this new investment. New 3-D seismic technology has also helped it squeeze more oil out of existing wells, and extend their productive lives. New offshore drilling technology also makes it easier for Apache to operate in deeper areas of the Gulf.
The company should earn $8.28 a share in 2006, and the stock trades at just 7.5 times that estimate. It’s also cheap at 4.8 times its forecasted cash flow of $13.00 a share. The $0.40 dividend yields 0.6%.
Apache is a buy.
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