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Bull of the Day: Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO)

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If you are looking for a small and inexpensive domestic energy play as crude oil prices hold their own above $100 per barrel, it's time to consider a $1.4 billion fracking company that has been shifting its focus from natural gas to crude liquids. And the shift has been showing up in the profits as you will see.

Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO - Free Report) is a Houston-based energy company actively engaged in the exploration and production (E&P) of oil and natural gas primarily in proven trends in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, the Niobrara Formation in Colorado, the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, the Barnett Shale in North Texas, and the Utica Shale in Ohio.

Carrizo has grown production and reserves over the last 8 years by focusing on 3-D seismic controlled horizontal drilling -- aka hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." They are an industry leader in horizontal technologies having drilled and completed hundreds of extended reach wells in a number of different oil and gas shale formations.

Gushing Revenues

On August 7, Carrizo beat profit estimates by $0.06, with Q2 earnings of $0.61 per share, excluding non-recurring items. The company also beat top line estimates and raised oil production guidance. Including special items, CRZO still beat the Zacks consensus estimate of 55 cents by a penny.

Revenues rose 60% year-over-year to $134.2 million vs. the $130.08 million consensus. Besides rising oil prices this year, the main culprit in this revenue burst was increased production. The company even surpassed the revised guidance it gave on June 17, less than two weeks before the quarter ended.

Due to continued strong performance from Carrizo's Eagle Ford Shale and Niobrara Formation assets, the company increased its 2013 oil production guidance to a range of 11,100-11,500 barrels per day (bpd) from 10,600-11,200 bpd.

Using the midpoints of these ranges, Carrizo's 2013 oil production guidance essentially increased 5% to 45% annual growth. For the third quarter 2013, the company expects oil production to be 11,800-12,200 bpd.

Based on this continuous growth, over half of the eight covering Wall Street analysts have raised earnings estimates for CRZO in the past month, both before and after this report. Here's how one prominent energy analyst summed up the view...

"As the company shifts its focus from the Barnett towards the emerging Eagle Ford, Marcellus, Niobrara and Utica plays, we believe Carrizo will see an impressive production growth profile over the next few years while changing the production mix to be more weighted towards liquids. We believe this growth coupled with cash flow to cover anticipated capital needs will drive shares to outperform peers."

Established Big Caps, or Emerging Growth?

When I was hunting for an energy E&P this month, I looked at many names I've traded before. Here are three familiar ones with a favorable Zacks Rank in a recently strong industry group of 86 companies...

(Click image to enlarge)

While I like EOG as a leader in the space of domestic shale fracking, and I dig the chart of COG cruising to new highs above $39, I had to go with the "emerging growth" play and leave the bloated big caps behind. They may have economies of scale that help them in their industry in ways that elude the young upstart.

But when I look at these growth estimates, I know where I want to put my energy money right now...

(Click image to enlarge)

And apparently more than a few institutional investors agree with me. As of Q2 SEC 13-F filings, 97 funds increased their holdings of CRZO with nearly 8.8 million shares added. This is against 82 portfolios decreasing their positions with 6.3 million shares sold.

Of the buyers, 30 money managers added 5.54 million shares, while 22 "sold out" for nearly 2.3 million shares. All in all, the net institutional buying is why CRZO shares have gone higher this summer. But it gets even better.

I track the big money on buys like this every week. And we had some buying this month that is not reflected in those 2Q 13-F filings. If you have a chance to check out a price chart of CRZO with daily volume bars, you'll see four big accumulation days around CRZO'S August 7 earnings report. August 6-9 averaged 965,000 shares per day when the 90-day average is 750k.

Some of these "whale-sized" trades will be coming through as 13D or G filings this week. And that's why, in full disclosure, I purchased shares of CRZO for the Zacks Follow The Money portfolio on Monday August 26.

Kevin Cook is a Senior Stock Strategist for Zacks where he runs the Follow The Money portfolio.

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