What to Expect When Penn West Petroleum Reports This Week

Can Chief Executive Dave Roberts turn this company around?

The Motley Fool

Penn West Petroleum (TSX: PWT)(NYSE: PWE) is set to report earnings on Thursday. After years of poor returns for shareholders, the company is trying the unthinkable — deliberately shrinking the size of the business. Growth for the sake of growth is out of favour. Rather, management is forsaking size in favour of returns and profitability.

Can the company pull off this turnaround attempt? Let’s review what has been happening at Penn West of the past couple of months and what we can expect in the upcoming quarter.

Stats on Penn West Petroleum

Analyst EPS Estimate

$0.08

Year-Ago EPS

$0.20

Revenue Estimate

$630.86M

Change From Year Ago Revenue

-9.40%

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

1

Source: Yahoo! Finance

Can Penn West manage to turn itself around?

Picture this…

It’s the year 2000. You’re a Penn West shareholder and oil is trading near $20 per barrel. I approach you with a stunning prediction: By 2014, oil prices will increase fourfold. However, the value of your shares will not increase one penny.

As shocking as that idea might sound, that’s exactly the situation Penn West shareholders find themselves in today. Sure, the company has grown. Since 2004, revenues have increased by a factor of three. But the previous decade of effort has amounted to exactly zilch from the perspective of investors.

Needless to say, shareholders aren’t impressed. But new Chief Executive Dave Roberts is planning to change that. Growth is out. Rather, Penn West is shrinking its operations to pare down debt and become a more efficient operator.

Roberts’ plan consists of two parts. First, he has decided to trim Penn West’s unwieldy asset portfolio. The company has committed capital spending to just three plays — namely the Cadmium, the Viking, and Slave Point. Any asset outside of these core positions is a candidate for divestment. Proceeds will be used to pare down the debt on its balance sheet.

Second, Roberts is committed to making Penn West a more efficient producer. In recent years, Penn West has spent more money bringing on production than just about any other operator. And once production was online, the company had the highest operating costs in the Alberta oil patch. But by becoming a specialists in only a few plays, Robert believes he can cut operating costs by $5 per barrel.

Analysts are starting to warm up to the plan. Over the past three months the street has increased its consensus earnings estimate by $0.12 per share. For the the full year, the average forecast has more than doubled to $0.16 per share. And over the past three months, the stock is up almost 20%.

Can this strategy actually work? Surprisingly, the shrink-to-grow approach is taking over the oil patch with positive results at other companies.

Encana (TSX: ECA)(NYSE: ECA) has struggled in recent years from chronically depressed natural gas prices. New Chief Executive Doug Suttles has pledged to focus his investment efforts on five core properties, shift production towards higher margin oil and liquids, and spin-off non-core properties.

Over the next five years the company is aiming to grow its free cash flow by 10% annually. Given that the stock is up 35% over the past six months, it’s clear the plan is a hit amongst investors.

It’s a similar story south of the border at Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK). In mid-2013, the company’s portfolio read like a wishlist of unconventional shale plays spanning 15 million acres across the United States. Now Chesapeake is in the process of rationalizing its development of those holdings and prioritizing the drilling of only the most profitable wells.

The company’s fourth quarter results confirmed the turnaround is taking shape. Chesapeake boosted its adjusted EBITDA  by 34% year-over-year, and earnings more than doubled to $1.50 per share. Although overall output only grew 3%, oil production increased by 32%, reflecting the shift Chesapeake has made away from dry gas toward liquids.

Foolish bottom line

In Penn West’s report, watch the company’s production guidance closely. Investors are worried that if the company pulls spending too quickly, production volumes could shrink much faster than management is letting on. Investors want to make sure that the company is still on track to produce 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

Fool Contributor Robert Baillieul has no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. 

More on Investing

Business man on stock market financial trade indicator background.
Tech Stocks

This Growth Stock Is Down 26%: Buy, Sell, or Hold?

While many growth stocks took to the sky after the December 2023 earnings, this one growth stock fell 26%. Should…

Read more »

Man data analyze
Dividend Stocks

1 Magnificent S&P 500 Dividend Stock Down 39% to Buy and Hold Forever

NextEra Energy is among the largest utility companies in the world, which has delivered inflation-beating returns in the last 20…

Read more »

stock research, analyze data
Dividend Stocks

2 Magnificent Stocks to Buy That Are Near 52-Week Lows

Do you want to add some magnificent stocks to your portfolio? Here are two discounted options that you will regret…

Read more »

STACKED COINS DEPICTING MONEY GROWTH
Dividend Stocks

Don’t Miss This Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Lock in a 9% Dividend Yield

Is your passive income portfolio earning a decent dividend yield? Here is an opportunity to boost your portfolio with a…

Read more »

four people hold happy emoji masks
Metals and Mining Stocks

Got $200? 2 Lithium Stocks to Buy and Hold Forever

Lithium stocks may not be in the headlines like chip stocks, but they have just as much growth potential over…

Read more »

Dividend Stocks

If You Invested $10,000 in BCE Stock in 2010, This Is How Much You Would Have Today

There are many ways to earn money from the same stock. Here are three ways to invest $10,000 in BCE…

Read more »

Senior Couple Walking With Pet Bulldog In Countryside
Investing

3 TSX Stocks That Could Help Make You Rich by Retirement

TSX stocks like goeasy have the potential to outperform the broader equity markets by a wide margin and deliver solid…

Read more »

Happy family father of mother and child daughter launch a kite on nature at sunset
Dividend Stocks

3 Things You Need to Know if You Buy Gildan Stock Today

Gildan stock (TSX:GIL) rose after a dividend increase, but there is still a lot of turmoil behind the scenes that…

Read more »