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ConocoPhillips Plans Divestments Worth $8 Billion in 2017

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U.S. independent ConocoPhillips (COP - Free Report) recently announced plans to commence a multi-billion dollar divestment program next year in order to survive price volatility.

The company intends to sell assets valued between $5 billion and $8 billion, mainly from its North American natural gas portfolio. Given that Brent crude is now trading at about $50 per barrel, these activities will facilitate the company to accomplish its priorities like a debt level of $20 billion, a 20–30% payout of operating cash flows to shareholders as well as modest production growth to drive margin and cash flow expansion. According to the strategy for 2017, ConocoPhillips will announce a $3 billion share repurchase program.

Moreover, the company is expected to further trim its capital expenditures and costs in 2017 from the levels in 2016. Nonetheless, it will target a modest growth in production. ConocoPhillips now expects capex of about $5 billion next year, down 4% from the current year’s guidance of $5.2 billion. This also indicates more than 50% decrease from the 2015 capex and investments of $10.1 billion.

In 2017, capital spending will mainly be focused on flexible unconventional development programs in the Lower 48, conventional projects in Europe, the Asia Pacific and Alaska, as well as base asset maintenance.

Of the total capex, about $600 million is apportioned for exploration that is mainly focused on unconventionals, appraisal of the Barossa discovery and the closeout of deep-water Gulf of Mexico and Nova Scotia drilling commitments.

In 2017, production is estimated between 1.54 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (MMBoe/d) and 1.57 MMBoe/d, up 2% from the expected full-year output this year. Ramp up at APLNG in Australia, Surmont 2 in Canada and Kebabangan in Malaysia, and increased activity in the Lower 48 unconventional are expected to drive growth. This would be partially offset by normal field decline. The company’s production outlook excludes Libya.

For 2017, guidance for production and operating expenses is about $5.2 billion.

ConocoPhillips currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked players from the same sector are SunCoke Energy Inc. (SXC - Free Report) , Futurefuel Corp. and TransCanada Corporation (TRP - Free Report) . All these stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

SunCoke Energy posted a positive earnings surprise of 177.78% in the preceding quarter. It reported a positive earnings surprise in three of the four preceding quarters.

Futurefuel Corp. posted a positive earnings surprise of 20.83% in the preceding quarter. It reported a positive earnings surprise in all of the four preceding quarters.

TransCanada posted positive earnings surprise of 22.92% in the last reported quarter.

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