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SM Energy (SM) Up 44.3% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Continue?

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It has been about a month since the last earnings report for SM Energy (SM - Free Report) . Shares have added about 44.3% in that time frame, outperforming the S&P 500.

Will the recent positive trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is SM Energy due for a pullback? Before we dive into how investors and analysts have reacted as of late, let's take a quick look at its most recent earnings report in order to get a better handle on the important catalysts.

SM Energy Q4 Earnings Miss Estimates on Lower Production

SM Energyreported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 2 cents per share, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 7 cents. However, the bottom line improved from the year-ago loss of 4 cents per share.

Quarterly revenues of $320 million decreased from $452 million in the year-ago quarter and missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $340 million.

The lower-than-expected results can be attributed to a decline in daily oil equivalent production volumes.

Operational Performance:

Total Production Falls

SM Energy’s fourth-quarter production totaled 122.4 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day (MBoe/d) (51.4% oil), down 11.8% from the year-ago level of 138.8 MBoe/d.

Oil production decreased 6% year over year to 62.9 thousand barrels per day (MBbls/d). The company produced 275.3 million cubic feet per day of natural gas in the quarter, down 9.9% year over year. Natural gas liquids contributed 13.6 MBbls/d to total production volume, down 33.7% from the fourth-quarter 2019 level.

Realized Prices Decline

Excluding the effects of derivative settlements, the average realized price per Boe was $28.42 compared with $35.17 in the year-ago quarter. Average realized price of natural gas increased 1.7% year over year to $2.46 per thousand cubic feet. Notably, average realized prices of oil decreased 27.7% to $40.54 per barrel and that of natural gas liquids increased 3.3% from the prior-year quarter to $18.43.

Cost & Expenses

On the cost front, unit lease operating expenses decreased 12.2% year over year to $4.10 per Boe. In addition, transportation expenses fell to $2.89 per Boe from $3.46 in the year-ago quarter. Moreover, general and administrative expenses decreased 39% to $1.78 per Boe from the prior-year level of $2.92.

Total exploration expenses were $11.3 million, lower than the year-ago figure of $17.6 million. Hydrocarbon production expenses for the quarter were recorded at $96 million compared with the year-ago level of $127.3 million. Notably, total operating expenses for the quarter decreased to $492.3 million from the year-ago period’s $540 million.

Capex

Capital expenditure for the fourth quarter was recorded at $128 million, lower than the year-ago figure of $235.1 million. This was due to lower drilling costs per lateral foot and the postponement of five well completions.  Notably, it generated free cash flow of $67.4 million in the quarter versus the year-ago figure of $60.9 million.

Outlook

SM Energy's operating plan for 2021 is expected to generate free cash flow of $100 million, which will likely help lower its debt load.

The company has a strong hedging position, which enables it to navigate through the weak oil price environment.

How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?

It turns out, estimates review flatlined during the past month. The consensus estimate has shifted -5.14% due to these changes.

VGM Scores

Currently, SM Energy has a nice Growth Score of B, a grade with the same score on the momentum front. Charting a somewhat similar path, the stock was allocated a grade of C on the value side, putting it in the middle 20% for this investment strategy.

Overall, the stock has an aggregate VGM Score of B. If you aren't focused on one strategy, this score is the one you should be interested in.

Outlook

SM Energy has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). We expect an in-line return from the stock in the next few months.


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