Encana posts first-quarter profit, bumps up 2014 cash flow targets
Randy Eresman, president and CEO of Encana Natural Gas, addresses the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Wednesday, April 25, 2012. (Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, May 13, 2014 12:18PM EDT
CALGARY -- Encana Corp. is bumping up its cash flow targets for 2014, with further revisions likely to come as big-ticket deals close and progress continues on its new strategy.
The Calgary-based oil and gas producer (TSX:ECA) said Tuesday it's expecting total cash flow to come in at between US$2.9 billion and US$3 billion for 2014, up from its previous target between US$2.4 billion and US$2.5 billion.
The change reflects strong first-quarter natural gas prices during the first quarter and takes into account the recent sale of Wyoming natural gas properties.
It does not, however, include the sale of Encana's East Texas gas lands, the upcoming initial public offering of its PrairieSky royalty spinoff or its acquisition of oil-rich properties in the Eagle Ford shale in Texas. A further update to Encana's 2014 guidance is expected once those transactions close in the second quarter.
Net earnings, which account for one-time items, were $116 million, or 16 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $431 million or 59 cents per share a year earlier.
First-quarter operating earnings totalled $515 million, up from $179 million year earlier. On a per-share basis, that amounted to 70 cents per share, well above the 55 cents per share analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had on average been expecting.
Revenue totalled $1.89 billion compared with $1.06 billion year-over-year.
"Encana achieved very strong results in the first quarter and the execution of our new strategy is unfolding faster than many expected," CEO Doug Suttles told analysts on a conference call.
"This momentum has continued into the second quarter and as we near the mid-point of the year I continue to be very impressed by the results our team is achieving."
Encana's Deep Panuke offshore natural gas platform in Nova Scotia fetched "exceptionally strong" average prices during the quarter of more than $19 per 1,000 cubic feet, said chief financial officer Sherri Brillon.
Encana benefited from its ability to sell its output from Deep Panuke into the daily spot market, rather than entering into monthly contracts to sell it at a set price. With the U.S. Northeast suffering through an unusually cold winter, demand for the home-heating fuel surged.
Deep Panuke prices should, however, more closely follow New York Mercantile Exchange pricing during the summer. On Tuesday, NYMEX gas for June deliver was at around $4.43 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Encana sees natural gas prices in North America as a whole hovering between $4 and $5 per 1,000 cubic feet long term, said Renee Zemljak, executive vice-president of midstream, marketing and fundamentals.
Encana announced last week that it was spending US$3.1 billion to enter the oil-rich Eagle Ford shale in Texas.
Building on the newly acquired Eagle Ford position is a possibility, but Encana is in no rush to do it, Suttles said. For now, Encana is working out a development plan.
"I can tell you our focus is not on maximizing production, but it's on maximizing value and it's about how can we get the best performance out of the existing base production and how can we get the best potential from the development opportunities that exist there," said Suttles.
But if the right opportunity comes up to grow Encana's Eagle Ford footprint, the company has the financial wherewithal to pounce on it, Suttles said.
"I think we've shown we can be opportunistic. We have the financial strength to do that and I think we have the organizational capability to act quickly," he said.
Encana shares were at $24.94 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in late morning trading Tuesday, up about 1.4 per cent.