Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Energy

Northern Oil & Gas Inc (NOG) Q1 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

NOG Earnings Call - Final Transcript

Northern Oil & Gas Inc. (NYSE: NOG) Q1 2022 earnings call dated May. 06, 2022

Corporate Participants:

Michael Kelly — Chief Strategy Officer

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Adam Dirlam — President

Chad Allen — Chief Financial Officer

Analysts:

Neal Dingmann — Truist Securities — Analyst

Scott Hanold — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

John Freeman — Raymond James — Analyst

Charles Meade — Johnson Rice — Analyst

Phillips Johnston — Capital One — Analyst

Noel Parks — Tuohy Brothers — Analyst

John Abbott — Bank of America — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to the NOG First Quarter 2022 Earnings Call and Webcast. [Operator Instructions]

It’s now my pleasure to turn the call over to Mike Kelly, Chief Strategy Officer. Please go ahead, sir.

Michael Kelly — Chief Strategy Officer

Good morning, and thank you for joining us for NOG’s first quarter 2022 earnings conference call. Yesterday after the market closed, we released our financial results for the first quarter. You can access our earnings release on our Investor Relations website and our Form 10-Q will be filed with the SEC in the next few days. We also posted a new investor deck on the website last night.

I’m joined here this morning with NOG’s CEO, Nick O’Grady; our President, Adam Dirlam; CFO, Chad Allen; and our EVP and Chief Engineer, Jim Evans. Our agenda for today’s call is as follows: Nick will start us off with his comments regarding our first quarter and our business strategy; after Nick, Adam will give you an overview of our operations; and then Chad will review our Q1 financials and updates to our 2022 guidance. After the conclusion of our prepared remarks, the executive team will be available to answer any of your questions.

Before going further though, let me cover our Safe Harbor language, please be advised that our remarks today, including the answers to your questions may include forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. These forward-looking statements are subject to the risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to be materially different from the expectations contemplated by these forward-looking statements. Those risks include, among others, matters that we have described in our earnings release as well as in our filings with the SEC. Including our Annual Report on Form 10-K and our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. We disclaim any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

During our conference call, we may discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, including adjusted EBITDA, adjusted net income and free cash flow. Reconciliations of these measures to the closest GAAP measures can be found in the earnings release that we issued this morning.

I would now like to turn the call over to our CEO, Nick O’Grady.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, everyone, and thanks for participating in today’s call.

During this call, I’ll be focusing on six key points. Number one, first quarter 2022 was a record-breaker for NOG. We generated a monstrous $256.6 million of adjusted EBITDA and over $145 million of free cash flow. That is more than double the free cash flow we generated just one quarter earlier in Q4 2021.

We produced over 70,000 Boe per day with only two months of Veritas included in this production. Production beat our internal forecast by about 5% as a result of better than expected well performance. And we also received a slight contribution in March from a few Q2 completions that were ahead of schedule. Despite this, we had inline spending. We are increasing our free cash flow target for the year to greater than $425 million from $375 million prior on better production and better-realized pricing.

Number two, consistent outperformance. We are a proven and disciplined acquirer. And we have successfully integrated our 2021 deals on time and they’re performing better than expected. As we mentioned on last quarter’s conference call, we are conservative on development timing and the assumptions we utilize in acquiring assets. And we are seeing more production on our assets than anticipated, especially on the Veritas properties.

Number three, our diversified model continues to shine. For the quarter, Permian volumes made up approximately 20% of our production volumes with only about two months of Veritas contribution. I would like to reiterate that we want a low leverage, diversified capital allocation model and we’re delivering that in spades.

Our leverage in this quarter, is at a run rate of about 1.1 times, well ahead of schedule and we believe we’re on a path to less than 1 times in 2022. When this management team came onboard four years ago, one of the major goals was to improve and deleverage NOG’s balance sheet. We believe that goal has been accomplished and is permanently in the review mirror, which will allow further shareholder returns as I’ll discuss next.

Number four, shareholder returns. During Q1, we delivered over 40% of our free cash flow back to shareholders in the form of dividends and preferred buybacks, a record percentage and a record in terms of absolute returns. Even with the strong shareholder returns, we still ended the quarter with less debt than we had forecasted.

We also increased and accelerated our dividend plan, which included another 36% increase to the quarterly dividend. Throughout this year our goal is to keep all options open to deliver more shareholder returns and improve our discounted absolute and relative valuation.

As we have previously discussed, we believe we have a premium business model that will continue to provide great returns to our shareholders. As noted in our release, management is recommending another 32% dividend increase next quarter that would take the annual dividend to $1 per annum. The Board has also approved the buyback plan for our senior notes as well as increasing the authorizations for preferred and common stock repurchases.

Number five, the future. We are seeing robust organic activity on both our Permian and Williston properties, as we approach mid-year. We hope and expect to see development towards the high end of our 48 well to 52 well count this year, which should boost exit volumes for 2022 and set us up for significant production and free cash flow growth in 2023.

As I mentioned last quarter, we see inclining volumes on our assets throughout this year. Recent severe storms in North Dakota will be a minor blip in April, and while it will flatten out Q2 growth, the trajectory for 2022 is actually materially improving, with accelerating growth throughout 2022. This has allowed us to increase our full-year production guidance.

Additionally, ground game activity is booming, and we expect our free cash flow to significantly outperform our prior expectations. Small scale ground game competition has picked up, but we are getting significant traction in larger scale wellbore development projects that may be too large for our competitors to handle. If successful, we’ll update you as always.

Number six, bolt-ons. Legendary World War II General Omar Bradley was famous for saying that, amateurs talk strategy but professional talk logistics. To that point, we have not done M&A as part of just some pie in the sky strategic thinking. We have done it to definitively increase returns to our shareholders as the results speak to you today. The strategic benefits are a residual benefit of smart financial decisions. The number of bolt-on properties coming to market has accelerated dramatically since we last reported. And we’re evaluating a robust pipeline.

As always, we’re evaluating top quality accretive prospects in our core areas. As one would expect with commodity prices higher and upside convexity for the buyer more limited, we will be cautious in our underwriting approach. Furthermore, you can expect our hedging strategy upon success will be geared towards locking in the majority of the PDP value. I’m optimistic we can close on meaningful value added M&A this year.

As I’ve mentioned previously, we do not expect these acquisitions to require Northern to access the public common equity markets, given our current leverage levels. As is typical, I will remind you, this is not a cheesy tag line we take it seriously when we say we are a company run by investors, for investors. And I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to listen to us today.

I now like to turn the call over to Adam and Chad to provide more details on our operations and financials. Adam?

Adam Dirlam — President

Thanks, Nick.

The first quarter finished on a high note, as elevated activity levels across our entire position have been encouraging and the Permian is leading the way. Completions for the quarter came in above expectations as we added 10.6 net wells to production. The trend in a pull-forward of activity remained a theme during the quarter with the acceleration coming from our Williston completions.

The Permian assets performed up to expectations, with the Veritas asset, accounting for

Roughly 20% of the net additions during the quarter. While completions were above expectations, we also saw the base asset outperform internal production forecast.

Our private operators in both the Permian and the Williston were the main contributors to that outperformance with continued improvements to well efficiency. Our Marcellus assets have also been performing well, and we have been encouraged by the shallower declines in connection with the change in well design. With roughly nine months production under our belt, our first completed set of wells are outperforming by 15% and we expect that outperformance to increase as we gather additional production data.

As we look to the second quarter, [Indecipherable] Williston shut-in significant gross volumes during April. However, based on our areas of concentration and our operators working diligently to bring wells back online. The net effect to NOG was not nearly as impactful. In addition, our Permian assets have helped to partially mitigate the interruption. And we expect to navigate the late winter weather effects moving through the second quarter.

On the drilling side, activity levels remained strong. We saw a build in our D&C list which has a sitting with almost 50 net wells in process, up from 42.5 net wells, when we entered the quarter. As anticipated, the activity levels during the winter months shifted from the back into the Permian, as the Permian made up 45% of our total oil wells in process compared to about a third when we finished the year. Continuing with that theme, the Permian also accounted for two-thirds of the 13.3 net well proposals that we elected to during the quarter.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of wells being proposed on our large Permian acquisitions and also saw consistent development from our other ground game acquisitions that closed in 2021.

In the Williston, as the rig count has jumped to a two-year high, AFE activity has risen for the fourth consecutive quarter and elections are up over 250% versus the first quarter of last year. In totality, the acceleration in both the Williston and the Permian provided us with a 40% increase in net well elections quarter-over-quarter.

We will continue with our barbell approach of high-quality elections and opportunistic ground game acquisitions. And while there will be monthly variations, we expect our current Williston and Permian assets to grow roughly in balance over the year. We’ve also been keeping a close eye on inflationary pressures, and I’ve been impressed with the operators that we actively choose to partner with.

Per well costs on new proposals remain well within the range of what we are modeling with average well cost effectively flat quarter-over-quarter at $7 million a copy. This is not necessarily been the case for some of the other smaller operators that we have been observing through our ground game evaluation process.

Many of the deals that we have screened have shown elevated AFE costs and partnering with the right operators during this period of time has been imperative to retaining capital efficiency. On the ground game front, deal flow remains at all-time highs. And despite the commodity price volatility, the end variability and quality, will remain disciplined in our approach.

During the quarter, we closed 10 deals for 1.3 net wells, 326 net acres, and 73 net royalty acres. The acquisitions were fairly balanced between the Williston and the Permian during Q1. We continue to see some very compelling opportunities in both basins as we move into the second quarter.

The larger M&A opportunities continue to come to market both in formal auctions and off-market sales. No difference in the ground game deals that we evaluate, we’re looking for quality assets and seeking to deal with realistic sellers. There remains a concentration of quality non-op deals in both the Permian and the Williston and was currently screening a number of them. Operators have also been approaching us on potential partnerships and to the extent we can put something together, those mutually beneficial, we will remain opportunistic on that front.

Discipline and creativity are essential in this environment and we are focused on layering in quality assets only to the extent that they are accretive to the enterprise. The beauty of getting done what we were able to do last year with over $800 million in acquisitions is that we don’t have to do anything, looking at the assets we’ve tucked in, due to work for us.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Chad.

Chad Allen — Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Adam.

I’ll start by reviewing some of our key first-quarter results, which was the strongest quarter in company history. Our Q1 average daily production increased to 11% sequentially over Q4 and increased 85% compared to Q1 of 2021. Our adjusted EBITDA was $256.6 million up 46% over last quarter and our free cash flow more than doubled to $146 million compared to last quarter. Both metrics were well ahead of Wall Street analysts and internal expectations.

Our adjusted EPS was $1.58 per share in Q1, well above consensus estimates. Oil differentials were better than expected in Q1 and came in just under $4 per barrel, due to strong Bakken pricing and having more barrels weighted towards the Permian which has a sub-$2 oil differential.

Gas realizations continue to remain strong in Q1, but I want to point out as higher gas prices persist and the ratio of natural gas liquid prices tighten, we would expect our gas realizations to fall back in line with our guidance. These operating costs were $54.5 million in the first quarter or $8.50 per Boe, effectively flat on a per unit basis compared to the fourth quarter, and towards the bottom end of our guidance.

As I mentioned on our last call, specifically related to our firm transport commitments on our Marcellus assets, that LOE will be — elevated in the second quarter, as we make any required payments compared to our annual production expense guidance.

Cash G&A adjusted for one-time acquisition costs related to our Veritas acquisition was $0.86 per BOE. Capital spending for the first quarter was $85.6 million excluding non-budgeted corporate acquisitions which was below Street expectations, despite a pull forward in completion activity and additional ground game opportunities in Q1. Our Williston Basin spending made up 60% of the total capital expenditures for the quarter. The Permian made up 35%, the Marcellus made up 4%, and other items made up the remainder.

The balance sheet is in great shape. We paid out nearly $85 million on the revolver, after closing the Veritas acquisition in late January. We currently have approximately $361 million drawn on the revolver, leaving approximately $390 million in availability. Given the cash flow we expect to generate, we forecast our revolver to be undrawn in Q1 of next year. All of that could certainly move depending on commodity prices, how we use our free cash flow and other factors.

As we finalize our spring redetermination, our current asset base would support a substantially higher borrowing base should we desire more liquidity. On the hedging front, we’ve opportunistically added volumes north of $80 since our last report, most of it fill our targets in 2023 and 2024, and the top-up volumes from our Veritas acquisition. We continue to target hedging 60% to 65% of production on a rolling 18-month basis, with select longer-dated hedging tied to corporate acquisitions.

With respect to updated 2022 guidance, our production guidance is up 1,000 Boe per day to a range of 71,000 Boe to 76,000 Boe per day. We expect our production to ramp as we move through the year and exit closer to the higher end of our range.

We will see some slowing of growth at the beginning of Q2 due to severe storms in North Dakota but expect a strong catch-up as we enter the third quarter. As a reminder, Q1 is typically our slowest quarter. So in terms of the cadence of our capital spend, we expect them to be more weighted towards the last three quarters of the year.

As I mentioned earlier, oil differentials were better than expected, so we’re updating our guidance to $5.25 to $6. This outlook should generate more than $425 million of free cash flow after our preferred stock dividend and would result in modestly increased production volumes and consistent growth in our common stock dividend. As Nick mentioned, the steady volume ramp we expect throughout 2022 also bodes well for a strong set-up for 2023.

With that, I’ll turn the call back over to the operator for Q&A.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. We will now be conducting a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions]

Our next question is coming from Neal Dingmann from Truist Securities. Your line is now live

Neal Dingmann — Truist Securities — Analyst

Yes, do you all hear me fine?

Adam Dirlam — President

Yeah, Neal.

Neal Dingmann — Truist Securities — Analyst

Good morning. First question is on strategy guys, good detail so far, Nick, I like the layout. Specifically, I’d call you all now the leaders in the small-cap clubhouse when it comes to shareholder returns. So Nick, for you and the team, I’m just wondering do you all believe going forward that larger shareholder payouts are key for you and other small caps or do you prefer to build scale or what is the optimal plan?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Neal. I think there is solid logic to both M&A and obviously shareholder returns. M&A is important and we believe energy is the natural consolidator. Energy benefits from continuing to scale in the public markets, we see huge synergies from getting larger to our cost structure, our cost of capital, diversification, as today’s results speak to make for a better non-op [Phonetic] portfolio. So to sum that up, the analysis that we do internally still shows that M&A creates the most long-term value creation at least financially.

We can grow our per-share profits with few limits, given the marketplace and opportunities out there. It’s impossible to manage the stock price day-to-day, but we can control and grow our business and profitability and let the market do its magic. But I’d say the current plan is an all of the above strategy, taken securities, grow and improve profits.

That being said, I was a fundamental securities investor for 15 years. So I’m not going to mince my words here. I think we are terribly undervalued today, even if the strip gap down $25. That means that repurchasing our own securities and other forms of returns are as competitive as ever with any use of capital.

We’re generating massive free cash flow, we’ve got significant authorizations in place for potential common preferred bond repurchases. Making sure the market values as appropriately is part of my job. And while there is only so much you can do, I do take it really seriously. So if this market situation sticks around, we certainly don’t intend to stand around and shrug our shoulders.

Neal Dingmann — Truist Securities — Analyst

No, it’s great to hear. I love it [Phonetic] how you use that — that buybacks — the potential backstop, I completely agree.

And then my second sort of ties into what you’re just talking about, it was really on capital markets. You all, as you mentioned, certainly closed some timely acquisitions last year, but it’s interesting I think part of the underperformance, I think, to start the year with concern about maybe potentially additional equity coming around maybe further deals. So, I’m just wondering, we estimate you all right now, I mean, you should have an ironclad balance sheet, I believe, by –towards the year-end.

So given that, how would you think about further financings or how would you consider when you look at further deals now that you’re going to certainly be in a materially different financial shape here in the coming months?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I mean, I would say, based on historic valuations that we’re paying when we acquire properties, if we were to be successful, I think we could do upwards of $900 million in cash acquisitions without having any material impact to our overall credit metrics.

And I would say, our Board of Directors, to be clear, our profits are up about 80% since the fall and our stock is roughly in the same place. So, that means our valuation is compressed and I would say our Board has very, I would say, not to mince words here, but I don’t think the Board is terribly excited about issuing common equity if the market is not going to value its property and we just frankly don’t need to.

Neal Dingmann — Truist Securities — Analyst

Great to hear. Thanks, guys.

Operator

Thank you. Next question is coming from Scott Hanold from RBC Capital Markets. Your line is now live.

Scott Hanold — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Thanks all, and I like the enthusiasm. It sounds like things are going quite well there. Just — first if I could delve into sort of the operating cost side of things, it seems like, obviously the first quarter, your opex looked pretty good. And I know, Chad, you gave some color on obviously the trend being up maybe a little bit. So, if you could quantify that, but then also from a bigger picture perspective, just help us think about like just structurally, where does LOE cost go over time as the Permian becomes a bigger part of the equation?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So, this is Nick. I’ll let Chad talk a bit on the logistics for this year. The one thing in terms of our FT commitments in the Marcellus as an annual thing we pay, we can’t spread it out, you pay a one and done. [Speech Overlap] Yeah.

Chad Allen — Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. That’s right. The comp makes sure — kind of hold you to looking at as you receive it when we originally book the fair value for when we bought the Marcellus properties back in Q1 of ’21, we had to kind of fair value with that. And then any incremental increase now, we have to kind of roll in as it comes along. From a quantification standpoint, I think it’s somewhere around $5 million to $6 million — $5 million to $7 million of costs that will be coming through related to that in Q2.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. And Scott, the reason that it’s an issue this year versus say last year is that we paid it at closing like last year, so we incurred it — we still incurred it just in the actual capitalization of the transaction. In terms of LOE and the balance between the Permian, I think as the Permian grows, it obviously — it’s a gassier play and has, generally, from a productivity perspective lower operating costs as well as it’s closer to market. So, as we book our GP&G cost in LOE, it tends to be lower.

As Bakken production ages out, obviously LOE per unit on any well goes up over time. And so I would say, our goal would be as we modestly grow our volumes and that mix shift changes over time that our LOE would stay relatively static.

Scott Hanold — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Okay. And that’s relatively static to say like the $850 million number you guys posted in the first quarter, is that sort of a good benchmark?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

I would say, just to be conservative, within the range of our guidance, right. I think — and I think the other thing too is that when you think about how we book at versus say some other peers, where we do kind of all in one, we do have to account for the fact that liquids prices are very high. And so, your processing costs are going to float with the price of overall NGLs. So, it’s going to be more elevated now.

Obviously, you’re getting that and above that in revenue, but it will — that LOE will go down if prices were to meaningfully contract. And if propane prices went to $2 a gallon, it’s likely to go up somewhat because you have a lot of top contracts as part of that.

Scott Hanold — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Understood. And then, Nick, you, obviously — I’m going to use your words that said, the ground game is booming. Could you help give us a sense of like what’s going on? And how big of an opportunity is it for you — is that for you all? What has really spurred sort of the uptick in that opportunity?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean, I think what’s really changed in the dynamic is that, if you go back five years to seven years ago when prices were high, operators generally would consent to all of their non-operated properties and just spend extra money. What’s unique about it is that we’re in a $100 world and they still want to spend money drilling their own wells and that stuff is still coming off.

And so, what I would describe to you is, we’re not — what we’re seeing is, instead of a quarter of a net well here with some acreage or a half a net well there, we’re seeing pad developments with up to 40% working interest that could be five net wells to seven net wells.

Well, at today’s prices that could be $50 million to $75 million worth of capital. And I don’t want to scare you on that — where we’re going and spending money like crazy. But I would just say the size of the transactions as well as the small stuff, which still exists, is larger than we’ve seen in past transactions — Adam, you should have —

Adam Dirlam — President

Yeah, I mean, the size of the transaction relative to the rate of return, in terms of its competition, that’s where we’re going to focus our efforts on. We’ve got 2% to 3% of working interest that are getting shot. We’ve got a lot of other people trying to take a bite out of that. And those are the things that — let go by and is not going to move the needle. So, we’re going [Speech Overlap] room buyers. It’s hard to get [Phonetic] just a couple of folks, you know, who can really [Phonetic] do a little bit better on pricing.

Scott Hanold — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Yeah. So, as you contemplate your full-year guidance, did you kind of also account for the fact that maybe there is more ground game — pickup of ground game activity through the course of the year? Is that potential upside too is sort of the outlook at this point?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Potentially. I mean, I think, we take it each one in stride. I mean, I think as you know, Scott, we budget for a good portion of this within the year, every year. And so, we’ve tried to be very careful, so that when we are successful, and this is not just additions to the capital. And I’d say, we feel very confident in our capital outlook. We’ve been very, very cautious in terms of that. So, I wouldn’t make the assumption that it necessarily is incremental capital, so to speak.

One thing I would say that is an interesting trend we have noticed in the past 18 months, we had a discussion with our own Board about it this week, which is that the conversion timing has been compressing, meaning that in past years we would see six months to nine months lead times from AFE to sales. And we’ve been seeing things compressed to sometimes less than three months. And what’s good about that is, it means you’re not carrying on a percentage of completion those costs on your D&C list for a long time. So, it tends to make your capital efficiency a bit higher because the money is coming in and going out and converting very, very quickly. So, it means, you don’t necessarily carry as many wells in process as you might have in the past, but then, your capital is highly productive and turning much quicker.

Scott Hanold — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Understood. Thanks for that.

Operator

Thank you. Your next question is coming from John Freeman from Raymond James. Your line is now live.

John Freeman — Raymond James — Analyst

Good morning, guys.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

John.

John Freeman — Raymond James — Analyst

When I look at — you are close to achieving the target of being a — below that 1 times leverage. And given that the preferred stock is your most expensive cost of capital, would it maybe make some sense to shift more of that incremental free cash flow toward accelerating the repurchase of the preferreds relative to paying off the revolver by 1Q’23, just given how much cheaper that cost of capital is?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean, I think let’s go through all three securities just to — so we — you can understand our logic clearly. I’d say, they all have their merits in their own way. And I think given how much free cash flow we’re generating, I don’t think we have to choose just one. We’ve obviously attacked the preferred first because, as you point out correctly, it is the most expensive cost of capital. And we’re monitoring and weighing all of them against each other, but they have different considerations.

As I mentioned the corporate finance modeling will tell you, the preferred is definitively our most expensive, it’s deeply in the money now. And that’s certainly why we chose it first. But then, with respect to our bonds, if the Fed actions mean that we can retire debt we just issued at about 107% of PAR for less than we owe, that in and of itself has value.

And with the common stock, that’s one of our — basically, our number one focus when it comes to making sure the market is valuing us appropriately, and you can’t ignore that either. Obviously, the preferred does have some impact because it is in the money and effectively common stock at this point.

So, bonds have the impact of saving interest and reducing risk and potentially actually some accretion in the sense that you can retire the loan for less than you owe. The preferred has the most mechanical impact to our returns and the float reduction from common stock may help our stock trade properly and as well boost returns. So, I think all options are on the table here and now. But I think we’ll be very logical about how we approach this and measured and careful.

John Freeman — Raymond James — Analyst

Okay. No, I appreciate the thought process. And then on the capex front, as you all rightly pointed out, I mean you’re literally the only small-cap I can think of during earnings that was able to maintain the capex budget. And I guess what I’m trying to think about is, well, I guess first like on the AFE’s that you’re giving today, are you not seeing those move meaningfully higher from 1Q levels?

I’m just trying to get a sense of the confidence you all have got in being able to maintain that budget because it is pretty remarkable what you’ve done so far.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Well I made Bloomberg Intelligence retract an article they wrote last year, because they said small-cap companies will be facing cost inflation. Well we’re a small-cap company but we have large-cap operators. So the reality is that, the largest and best capitalized and most active operators are the ones that we are focused on from a capital efficiency perspective.

Not to mention the fact that, if you recall. last year, many operators as they were getting the synergies of lower cost wells, were lowering those costs, we did not. We kept ours consistent and flat. Because one of the things an operator A maybe seeing inflation, operator B may not, we see it all. And so, in some ways, I read it — I read a piece of an earnings review that said we might not have the same visibility that operators do, I soundly reject that. We actually have better visibility because we see everybody’s costs. So we saw a smaller capital live [Phonetic] companies with significant increases early last fall.

Adam Dirlam — President

John, the other way I’d frame it up, if you look at our D&C list, that’s just the percentage of private SMID cap large operators and look at it from a Williston or Permian standpoint, obviously, EQT [Phonetic] is operating 100% of our Marcellus asset. But you’ve got large-cap operators operating 47%, the other 47% is private, concentrated to true private. And so, our exposure to SMID cap operators is roughly 6%.

John Freeman — Raymond James — Analyst

Got you. Well, I would say that you all have clearly done a good job choosing your partners because we’ve had a number of large-cap companies that’ve blown through their budget this earning season as well. So you’ve clearly done the job of choosing their partners. But great quarter and I appreciate all the thoughts.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean, John, I feel like a broken record because I tell everyone this over and over but we are more conservative than our own operators in many cases on performance, timing, and costs. It doesn’t mean, we won’t be wrong from time to time, doesn’t mean we won’t choose to spend less or more from time to time, but it does mean we’re pretty careful and over the long term are pretty accurate.

John Freeman — Raymond James — Analyst

Appreciate it, guys.

Operator

Thank you. The next question is coming from Charles Meade from Johnson Rice. Your line is now live.

Charles Meade — Johnson Rice — Analyst

Nick, I have to say that that Omar Bradley quote, you had reach pretty deep in the back for that one?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

I got it from my mom, actually.

Charles Meade — Johnson Rice — Analyst

Careful [Speech Overlap] World War II buffer, so I have to say the metaphor is maybe a bit lost on me, but still I was impressed with the security of it. But let me ask a real question about your quarterly production cadence and here is — I think that what I heard Adam say is, is that you’re going to have a slight incline in 2Q. And what I’m curious about is — 2Q is going to have a full contribution from Veritas. And so, was that comment just about kind of a pro forma production or is that kind of on a pro forma basis — are you actually declining a bit and the extra month of Veritas is what’s bringing you back up?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I mean, listen, there were — the storms in North Dakota were no joke. And there was — for parts of April, there were a significant portion. I think Adam didn’t mention this, we materially outperformed the aggregate just by where we’re located, but it will have an impact of sort of flattening it out and kind of offsetting a bit. But if you think about it this way, all that oil is getting stored in the local tanks and then it’s going to come to sales in May once those things come off.

So, within the quarter, we may be proven wrong and why is it being a blip, but it did have an impact on April and slows it out. But you’re just basically stealing from Peter to pay Paul. So, on an annualized basis, it only winds up increasing the production sort of either later in 2Q or in 3Q.

Charles Meade — Johnson Rice — Analyst

Okay, that’s helpful. And then, maybe picking up on this inflation question. I think Adam already addressed a bit. Because you guys do get to peak behind a lot of curtains, you get — I’m just curious what insight you could share with us, not only across different plays, but you’ve already talked about different operators, are you seeing different pressures in different parts of the country? Or you’re seeing different kinds of pressures, whether it’s on [Indecipherable] or completions or something from one sort of operator to another? And what if anything, does that kind of suggest you about how ’23 is going to play out?

Chad Allen — Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, in terms of certain basins, we are certainly seeing a difference between the Bakken and the Permian. And the larger Bakken operators that we’re exposed to as well as the privates are doing a lot better. You have a function of a steady state rigs, long-term contracts if people are going back to the well — service providers are going to try to reach up those contracts.

And so, our operators in North Dakota are certainly staying conservative in that regard, albeit at a two-year highs. In the Permian, it’s a function of what kind of rig program you’re running. I mean, there is a handful of operators, smaller ones and choosy guys that are running one rig to two rigs and they are the ones that we’re seeing struggle the most. You’ve got frac crews that are potentially not showing up, sand, that’s not showing up, those types of things.

And so, that’s where we’re actively getting in front of the larger privates, as well as the larger publics, in that regard, in order to mitigate things. And then, as far as kind of ’23 is shaping up, but I don’t know how much capacity there is to add rigs at this stage in the game, in terms of availability. And so, in terms of moving things forward, I think it’s going to be steady-state, and then it’s just going to depend on rig contracts, how long those are, when those roll-off, and effectively the price of oil.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. And I would say, you know, there is lots of sand in the world and it’s not that hard to make a steel pipe. So, I think those shortages will be relatively shortly lived, I would anticipate by 2023, those capacity issues. Those are more easily solvable than the physical number of rigs or the people who work on them. So, I think those are shorter-term bottlenecks. That makes sense?

Charles Meade — Johnson Rice — Analyst

Yeah. But just to clarify, Adam, and your comments, Nick, about adding rigs, you’re talking about for the industry in aggregate, if I understand?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Correct.

Adam Dirlam — President

Correct. Yeah.

Charles Meade — Johnson Rice — Analyst

Thank you, guys.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean, Charles, it’s one thing to think about as a non-op, if we wanted to double our output next year, it doesn’t — we don’t add any net rigs, we don’t add any net production, it’s simply working interest in existing production [Speech Overlap]. So, we don’t have the same types of issues about ramping up or down that an operator does.

Charles Meade — Johnson Rice — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Next question is coming from Phillips Johnston from Capital One. Your line is now live.

Phillips Johnston — Capital One — Analyst

Hey, guys. Thanks. Nick, you mentioned inclining volumes in each quarter for the remainder of the year —

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah.

Phillips Johnston — Capital One — Analyst

I just wanted to — I guess, an update on the net well schedule. I think the original plan was around five to six or so in Q1 and sort of jump in the 18 in Q2 and then sort of roughly 13 or so in each quarter in the back half of the year to kind of round off the 50 total. I think Q1 was closer to 10.5 and then we’ve obviously got some weather here in Q2. So, wondering how that cadence might have changed?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So I think that — from inclining volumes, which I do — I think I would expect sort of a flattening of the overall production in Q2. We’ll have to see just as the field’s coming back to life, but there is a chance of modest growth. But I do think from a completions perspective, you’ll see a modest uptick, flat up in the second quarter and the third quarter. And I think in the fourth quarter, you’re going to see a pretty substantial uptick in the number of completions we have. So I would say, 10 to 12 wells a year for the middle quarters of the year, and I would say probably 15 plus, in the fourth quarter that’s helpful.

Adam Dirlam — President

Yeah. I mean, obviously, there is that one more round [Phonetic] from month to month, and depending on when we’re adding those wells, earlier or later in the quarter, that’s obviously going to drive things too.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. And we’ve been consistently surprised, as you would imagine, that $100 oil — people are highly motivated to get there, well as the sales [Phonetic]. So, it’s probably the third straight quarter where we’ve seen some pull forward. And so, that definitely will play a factor into it, but I don’t think it’s going to have — I don’t think it’s going to materially change those, maybe one or two on the margin.

Adam Dirlam — President

Yeah.

Phillips Johnston — Capital One — Analyst

Okay. And just on a capex front, would that sort of trend at same level to where Q4 is probably going to be the peak or some?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. I mean, I would think — we should see in aggregate a handful more completions each quarter of this year, so we should see some step up in the capex. Obviously, we spent less than a quarter of our capex this quarter. But I don’t think it’s going to be massive and remember we’re a percentage of completion, right?

So it’s really about the wells in process. So, if you look at our capex this year, it’s not X wells completed times, the cost of those wells, right? We — our D&C list went up by 6.5 wells this quarter, so we’re carrying the cost of all those wells in process. So, just because the fourth quarter is where all our completions are, some of that capex is going to be borne in the second and the third quarters.

Phillips Johnston — Capital One — Analyst

Okay. And then, wanted to check to see what level of preferreds you are trading at these days? I think the last update I had was mid-March or so when they were about 136?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I mean I think today’s prices is just going to be somewhere between — it really depends on your — what your delta ratio is, right. So, they’re deeply in the money but you could make the argument there, 85 delta or they’re a 100 delta, right? But you time at like 135 to 150, but what do you really think about is the exchange ratio, which is about 22.60 [Phonetic] in change. So, that’s the number of share, right, $22.61 — $22.62 [Phonetic]. So, is that — and then the simple math on a preferred is you add like four years of coupon and that will kind of get you pretty close to the spot price.

Phillips Johnston — Capital One — Analyst

All right, makes sense. Thanks, Nick.

Operator

Thank you. Your next question is coming from Noel Parks from Tuohy Brothers. Your line is now live.

Noel Parks — Tuohy Brothers — Analyst

Hi. Good morning.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Noel.

Noel Parks — Tuohy Brothers — Analyst

You know, I just want to check in with you on one thing. You were talking about the ground game and, Andy, market activity in general. And I just wondered what are your thoughts on assets finding their way into the best hands? I think of — the peak of private equity coming into the sector. And I imagine that sort of scrambled things a bit in terms of just owners holding onto assets longer than they might have been just because they didn’t want to take the loss. So, just wondering where you — are we somewhat back to a normal market that — where activity and pricing are roughly proportional to market conditions, to fundamentals?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Let’s see here, I think that $100 oil is — it confounds people to some degree. I think that there is a lot on the market for sale, there is a lot of variability. I think on the very small scale stuff, there is always competition, but I think there’s probably more today. And that’s a function that people are making more money than they assumed they would and they’re trying to reinvest some of those dollars. You get a few kind of Johnny-come-latelies and people want to chase that.

Frankly, we’re like a matador, we’re happy to let the bull run by when that happens. In 2018, we saw a little mini version of this when oil spiked up to about $70, people love taking risk when the price is up and they’re feeling flush. But we maintain our discipline and we’re still getting plenty done. I think on the big scale stuff maybe there is a bit more competition than a few years ago, as people have raised a few dollars here and there.

But I still think, we managed the risk and concentration where others can’t. I think everyone understands that risk plays a bigger role when prices are elevated. I think sellers are frustrated because they want to get every last dollar out based on the current strip. And I would just say at a $100 oil, the whole case always looks great.

But in the end, I think sellers need to be realistic when you’re in this type of environment, which is that I think that’s the challenge in this market, which is that, if you held an asset and you needed to sell and monetize it, it might look — you might say, why would I even do that at today’s market pricing? And the answer is, because this is a cyclical business and there is a lot of risk and you can’t take that for granted.

Noel Parks — Tuohy Brothers — Analyst

Right. And I think you’ve been pretty clear on that, but just to double-check. As you noted, you’re primarily in assets that have larger operators. But we have been hearing just a lot of pressures from a lot of — sort of disparate directions depending on sort of the operator, uncertainty level, we don’t know [Phonetic] where they are, of course. So, it’s sounding like, you’re not — you’re not seeing any issues as far as completion pace by operators, you’re not sort of getting in trouble with sand-hauling, or I don’t know, equipment issues or anything like that?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

There are always cost overruns, there are always problems. The real question is, how do you underwrite it? How do you budget it? We have an entire planning group that spends all their time. And as I’ll say, ad nauseam, we spend a lot of time to try to under-promise and overdeliver, even internally, not just what we talk to our investors about.

So, we are absolutely seeing cost pressures, we’re absolutely seeing delays and we’re seeing, as Adam mentioned, frac crews not showing up. But the best part about our business is, when your average working interest is less than 10%, no one thing means all that much. And if you model it correctly, and you have engineers and planning people that are very careful about that, you’re generally more pleasantly surprised than disappointed.

Adam Dirlam — President

And then looking at the last six quarters — our weighted average fees and consents are coming in at $7 million. And we’re looking at our budget for the year, especially going into this one, we’re looking at call it $7 million to $8 million in order to account for those types of things.

Noel Parks — Tuohy Brothers — Analyst

Got it. Thanks a lot. Appreciate the description of again sort of just reminders about the planning process internally. Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. Next question is coming from Nicholas Pope from Seaport Research. Your line is now live.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Nicholas?

Operator

Perhaps your phone is on mute, Nicholas. Please pickup your handset or take your phone off mute. Nicholas, if you could hear me? I cannot hear you. If not, [Operator Instructions]

Our next question is coming from John Abbott from Bank of America. Your line is now live.

John Abbott — Bank of America — Analyst

Good morning, and thank you for taking my questions. I do apologize that some of these topics may have been covered. Was a little late getting on the phone. My question, Nick, here is first on deal activity, which I’m sure there is been a lot of questions already asked, but how are you thinking about deal activity sort of over a multi-year horizon? Is there a point we slow down — what’s your sort of latest thoughts over time, this organic activity over a multiyear horizon?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

I think that in my prepared comments, I gave my sort of professional stock logistics. I think we’re opportunistic, which means that you know this isn’t some strategy of, we need to get bigger or we need to keep buying or we need to do all those things. We take each opportunity as it comes in the door, and if it makes sense and we can do it at the prices that we feel generate the returns we want, we’ll do it.

And that ebbs and flows, frankly, and I think the risk profile of that ebbs and flows, I think the risk within the market today is significantly higher than it was in 2021. We did that in a mid-cycle period of time. Obviously, we’re now enjoying the fruits of that at $100 oil, but obviously the risk — depending on your viewpoint, oil could go to $150 and it could also go back to $50. And I think — but that convexity is really important, especially to our Board as we look through those.

So the pipeline is as big as it’s ever been. We go through — last year was a bit of an anomaly in the sense that we had four successful transactions. I can tell you, all four of those, there were specific reasons why we were able to get — to be successful. We had one that needed money to make an acquisition and another one that needed money for capex, another one that was exiting the business entirely, right.

There is always a reason that that really helps things happen. And whereas typically, our batting average is very, very low. And so, I think if we can find transactions that meaningfully add value and returns and actual numbers, I mean, I don’t, I can’t say — look at our results, it has been proven on every per share statistic, even as we tap the capital markets that these transactions have added meaningful value.

That being said, we can’t control seller appetites and what their desires are and so we plod along with the way we do things. And sometimes we’re successful and sometimes we’re not. But in terms of slowing down or going, it’s our job to find ways to grow. That is why we are a public company, that’s why we’re capital as it is our job to grow and find ways to make a better company. And if we can do so, great. If not, we’re really happy with the business as it stands today. We don’t need to do anything, but I think we’d be doing a disservice to our stockholders if we didn’t at least look.

John Abbott — Bank of America — Analyst

Appreciate it. And when you are out there looking to potentially repurchase their shares, and I mean, you figured your stock that is undervalued. But when you sort of look at relative performance or you’re at the shares and you’ve gone through and you’ve made these large acquisitions, and they’ve been done at prices and they’ve improved your size.

Outside of like buyback stuff, I mean, what else do you think might be done — and to just sort of improve shareholder relative performance? I mean, you’re having a nice green day till today. But what else do you think could be done?

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

I mean, I’m incredibly proud of how we’ve transformed and built this business. The quarter’s results, like I said, are another validation of that. I really think we’ve done all the right things from a business perspective. And our acquisitions in the last year — have taken us to new heights.

At the same time making sure the market values us appropriately is part of my job, and I take that very seriously. Based on how the market is undervaluing us and as a professional securities investor for a long time, I think I have some credence in my beliefs here. We may just need to capitalize on that and look to generate returns on our own securities.

If this market situation sits around, we certainly don’t intend to stand idly by. We’re generating massive free cash flow and we’ve got significant authorizations for every single security that we have outstanding. So, if necessary, we’ve got all the options on the table and cash is King, we have that — we have the big stick. So put simply, we care a lot about our stock price.

We have an incredible business model, that is still in my view, misunderstood and underestimated. And we’ll try hard to make those who believe in us proud. We have tons of upside from in-basin pricing to overall moves in oil. And as I’ve been saying, ad nauseam, for four years asymmetry, works in our favor. So when prices are high, everything that we’re doing comes on faster and t produces more.

John Abbott — Bank of America — Analyst

Really appreciate the color there, Nick, and thank you for taking our questions.

Operator

Thank you. We reached the end of our question-and-answer session. I’d like to turn the floor back over to management for any further or closing comments.

Nicholas O’Grady — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you all for joining us. We’ll see you on the next one.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Disclaimer

This transcript is produced by AlphaStreet, Inc. While we strive to produce the best transcripts, it may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies. This transcript is provided as is without express or implied warranties of any kind. As with all our articles, AlphaStreet, Inc. does not assume any responsibility for your use of this content, and we strongly encourage you to do your own research, including listening to the call yourself and reading the company’s SEC filings. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed in this transcript constitutes a solicitation of the purchase or sale of securities or commodities. Any opinion expressed in the transcript does not necessarily reflect the views of AlphaStreet, Inc.

© COPYRIGHT 2021, AlphaStreet, Inc. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, redistribution or retransmission is expressly prohibited.

Most Popular

KB Home (KBH): What did and did not work for the homebuilder in the third quarter

Shares of KB Home (NYSE: KBH) were up slightly on Friday. The stock has dropped 40% year-to-date and 35% over the past 12 months. The company delivered mixed results for

Infographic: A snapshot of Costco’s (COST) Q4 2022 earnings

Warehouse behemoth Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ: COST) has reported a 15% increase in fourth-quarter 2022 revenues, which translated into double-digit growth in net income. Fourth-quarter revenues increased sharply to $72.09 billion.

FDX Earnings: FedEx Q1 adjusted earnings drop; revenue up 5%

Cargo giant FedEx Corporation (NYSE: FDX) Thursday reported a decline in first-quarter adjusted earnings, despite an increase in revenues. The company also provided guidance for fiscal 2023. Net income, adjusted

Add Comment
Loading...
Cancel
Viewing Highlight
Loading...
Highlight
Close
Top