Company Update (NYSE:MRO): Marathon Oil Corporation Announces 2017 Capital Program


Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE:MRO) announced a 2017 capital program of $2.2 billion with over 90 percent allocated to its high return U.S. resource plays.

2017 Capital Program Highlights:

  • Accelerating activity and production growth in Oklahoma and the Bakken
  • Returning to sequential growth in U.S. resource plays in 2Q2017
  • 15 — 20% U.S. resource play growth (oil & boe) from 4Q2016 to 4Q2017
  • Significant cash flow generation expected from Eagle Ford and E.G.

2017 to 2021 production CAGRs at flat $55 WTI (oil & boe):

  • Announcing 10 – 12% total Company CAGR, excluding Libya
  • Increasing resource play CAGR to 18 – 22%
  • Expect to achieve growth rates within cash flows, inclusive of dividends

“We enter 2017 with greater focus and concentration on our excellent opportunities in the U.S. resource plays, and are well positioned to generate high return production growth for our shareholders,” Marathon Oil President and CEO Lee Tillman said. “This year’s $2.2 billion capital program underscores our strategic shift as we allocate over 90 percent to the U.S. resource plays. We’re ramping up activity in Oklahoma as we progress our STACK and SCOOP acreage toward full-field development, and in the Bakken where our enhanced completions recently achieved record results in the basin. Additionally, our Eagle Ford asset will contribute significant free cash flow while continuing to drive operational efficiencies.”

North America E&P

Marathon Oil will allocate $2 billion to the U.S. resource plays, which will be split about one-third to each of the three basins with Oklahoma’s strategic objectives occupying the Company’s first call on capital.

For the Oklahoma Resource Basins, the Company will focus on STACK leasehold retention, STACK delineation and infill pilots in preparation for 2018 full field development. The Company plans to increase its Oklahoma rig count to average approximately 10 rigs, while bringing 90 to 100 gross Company-operated wells to sales. This includes four to five STACK infill pilots and two SCOOP infill pilots to sales, as well as testing additional secondary horizons.

In the Eagle Ford, the Company expects to maintain a six-rig drilling program and bring 155 to 170 gross Company-operated wells to sales. With about two-thirds of the program focused in the high margin oil window, Marathon Oil expects this asset to generate significant free cash flow in 2017. The Company plans to continue optimizing completion techniques with increased proppant and fluid loading, and average lateral lengths.

In the Bakken, Marathon Oil plans to focus on its highest return West and East Myrmidon areas where it completed several basin-leading wells in 2016. The Company will progress multiple enhanced completion trials as well as continuing its focus on optimizing base production, while bringing 70 to 75 gross Company-operated wells to sales. Marathon Oil expects to average approximately six drilling rigs in the Bakken in 2017.

International E&P, OSM and other

Less than 10 percent of the Company’s capital program will be allocated to its International E&P business, Oil Sands Mining (OSM), corporate and other. Following last year’s completion of the Alba B3 compression project in Equatorial Guinea, that asset is expected to be a significant free cash flow generator in 2017.

Production Guidance

For full year 2017, the Company forecasts production available for sale from the combined North America and International E&P segments, excluding Libya, to average 335,000 to 355,000 net boed, about 5 percent higher than 2016 at the midpoint on a divestiture-adjusted basis. U.S. resource plays are expected to return to sequential growth in second quarter, and exit 2017 with oil and BOE production 15 to 20 percent higher than fourth quarter 2016, providing significant operational momentum into 2018. The Company forecasts 40,000 to 50,000 net barrels per day (bbld) of synthetic crude oil for the OSM segment, in-line with 2016.

First quarter 2017 volumes have been impacted by severe winter weather in North America, as well as scheduled and unscheduled downtime internationally. For first quarter 2017, North America E&P production guidance is expected to average 195,000 to 205,000 net boed and International E&P is expected to average 120,000 to 125,000 net boed, excluding Libya. OSM synthetic crude oil production is expected to range from 45,0000 to 50,000 net bbld in the first quarter 2017.

Shares of Marathon Oil closed yesterday at $16.30, down $0.11 or -0.67%. MRO has a 1-year high of $19.28 and a 1-year low of $6.52. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $17.17 and its 200-day moving average is $15.94.

On the ratings front, MRO has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on February 10, Canaccord analyst Stephen Berman reiterated a Hold rating on MRO, with a price target of $16, which represents a slight downside potential from current levels. On February 8, Credit Suisse’s Edward Westlake maintained a Hold rating on the stock and has a price target of $20.

According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Stephen Berman and Edward Westlake have a yearly average loss of -3.2% and a return of 15.4% respectively. Berman has a success rate of 46% and is ranked #4127 out of 4453 analysts, while Westlake has a success rate of 72% and is ranked #174.

Sentiment on the street is mostly neutral on MRO stock. Out of 10 analysts who cover the stock, 6 suggest a Hold rating and 4 recommend to Buy the stock. The 12-month average price target assigned to the stock is $25.83, which represents a potential upside of 58% from where the stock is currently trading.

Marathon Oil Corp. engages in the exploration, production, and marketing of liquid hydrocarbons and natural gas. It operates through the following segments: North America E&P, International E&P, and Oil Sands Mining. The North America E&P segment engages in the explores for, produces, and markets crude oil and condensate, natural gas liquids (NGL), and natural gas in the United States. The International E&P segment involves exploration, production, and marketing of crude oil and condensate, NGL and natural gas outside of North America; and production and marketing of products manufactured from natural gas such as liquefied natural gas and methanol in Equatorial Guinea. The Oil Sands segment includes mining, extraction, and transport of bitumen from oil sands deposits in Alberta, Canada, and the upgrade of bitumen to produce and market synthetic crude oil and vacuum gas oil.