Petrobakken / Lightstream Resources bites the dust

Lightstream Resources (TSX: LTS), formerly known as Petrobakken (TSX: PBN), was formerly a subject of analysis on this website. Despite the company having excessively high yields and posting (and boasting) about huge cash flows through operations, I remained very skeptical of them. Then the oil price cratered at the end of 2014, and then all the excess leverage the company held came to bite it.

The senior unsecured creditors failed to reach an agreement with the company, and as a result they will be going into CCAA proceedings.

I have never held shares of this company. The entity, once restructured, should be mildly profitable in the current oil price environment, but they need to shed a healthy quantity of their debt. It is a classic case of using too much leverage when the times are good.

A few bargains – Oil and Gas

I’ve been examining the wreckage of the market carnage over the past few days (these types of high volatility situations tend to create opportunities) and in general I have not been too impressed with what I have seen. Either that, or what I have been examining has been unfruitful material.

The big exception: the oil and gas sector.

The reason why they have cratered is because of this chart:

wtic

Then I start scouring the list of TSX oil and gas sector companies that are over a market capitalization of a billion dollars. The TSX maintains a comprehensive list of listed companies which I find to be of surprising value when I look for quick lists of companies. I generally don’t tread below a billion in capitalization for resource firms since companies of that capitalization are dominated by insider information where a good drilling result will make the difference between life and death and the last person to get this information will be the outside public.

Larger capitalization companies also receive the benefit of financial economies of scale as they will be able to raise capital in meaningful amounts at lower costs – just imagine if you were a bank lending to a $10 million microcap exploration company versus lending to Suncor – a world of difference.

I also exclude anything international (e.g. CNOOC) as my comfort level with companies with international operations (outside Canada/USA) is quite low. There are some Canadian companies with international operations (e.g. Husky) but I have not excluded them from the list.

This leaves the following:

NameRoot
Ticker
QMV(C$)
31-August-2014
O/S Shares
31-August-2014
Price Aug 31Price Oct 17Diff
Suncor Energy Inc.SU65,392,529,9631,465,214,653$44.63$37.43-16.1%
Canadian Natural Resources LimitedCNQ51,752,147,4691,092,047,847$47.39$38.64-18.5%
Imperial Oil LimitedIMO49,042,078,776847,599,011$57.86$51.56-10.9%
Husky Energy Inc.HSE32,835,380,634995,641,711$32.98$27.89-15.4%
Cenovus Energy IncCVE26,251,047,328756,950,615$34.68$26.44-23.8%
Crescent Point Energy Corp.CPG19,054,037,160423,423,048$45.00$37.80-16.0%
Encana CorporationECA18,575,904,053740,961,470$25.07$20.99-16.3%
Talisman Energy Inc.TLM11,519,723,5791,044,205,268$11.03$7.41-32.8%
Canadian Oil Sands LimitedCOS11,349,573,179484,610,298$23.42$17.97-23.3%
Tourmaline Oil Corp.TOU11,093,225,024201,438,624$55.07$46.15-16.2%
ARC Resources Ltd.ARX9,961,515,096316,942,892$31.43$28.70-8.7%
MEG Energy CorpMEG8,663,315,635223,684,886$38.73$29.03-25.0%
Baytex Energy Corp.BTE8,074,310,078166,069,726$48.62$36.10-25.8%
Vermilion Energy Inc.VET7,547,863,325106,713,747$70.73$64.36-9.0%
Paramount Resources Ltd.POU6,310,684,139104,654,795$60.30$51.77-14.1%
Peyto Exploration & Development Corp.PEY5,921,706,832153,690,808$38.53$34.20-11.2%
PrairieSky Royalty Ltd.PSK5,135,000,000130,000,000$39.50$34.00-13.9%
Enerplus CorporationERF5,108,169,000205,229,771$24.89$17.15-31.1%
Whitecap Resources Inc.WCP4,521,895,736245,621,713$18.41$14.98-18.6%
Penn West Petroleum Ltd.PWT4,182,765,734495,001,862$8.45$5.51-34.8%
Pengrowth Energy CorporationPGF3,938,186,665531,408,321$7.41$4.90-33.9%
Athabasca Oil CorporationATH3,181,210,140401,667,947$7.92$4.46-43.7%
Trilogy Energy CorpTET3,034,453,657105,071,110$28.88$20.80-28.0%
Bonavista Energy CorporationBNP2,991,583,651201,861,245$14.82$11.61-21.7%
Africa Oil Corp.AOI2,120,742,964312,333,279$6.79$4.14-39.0%
Bonterra Energy CorpBNE2,112,574,63332,086,492$65.84$53.82-18.3%
Gran Tierra Energy Inc.GTE2,003,447,146274,821,282$7.29$5.37-26.3%
Raging River Exploration Inc.RRX1,980,564,289180,051,299$11.00$8.14-26.0%
Birchcliff Energy Ltd.BIR1,969,417,138150,796,625$13.06$9.16-29.9%
Freehold Royalties Ltd.FRU1,925,524,14674,058,621$26.00$21.48-17.4%
Northern Blizzard Resources Inc.NBZ1,914,042,495101,810,771$18.80$15.85-15.7%
Surge Energy Inc.SGY1,889,478,484217,681,853$8.68$6.54-24.7%
Parex Resources IncPXT1,877,462,466126,287,061$14.87$10.73-27.8%
Kelt Exploration Ltd.KEL1,731,091,845126,727,075$13.66$10.55-22.8%
Bankers Petroleum Ltd.BNK1,721,811,689260,880,559$6.60$4.67-29.2%
Bellatrix Exploration LtdBXE1,611,292,542191,364,910$8.42$5.59-33.6%
NuVista Energy Ltd.NVA1,583,757,118135,944,817$11.65$10.05-13.7%
Legacy Oil + Gas IncLEG1,563,886,292199,730,050$7.83$5.06-35.4%
TORC Oil & Gas Ltd.TOG1,362,827,02893,344,317$14.60$11.29-22.7%
Painted Pony Petroleum Ltd.PPY1,362,274,68393,627,126$14.55$11.38-21.8%
Crew Energy Inc.CR1,359,860,601121,960,592$11.15$7.90-29.1%
Oryx Petroleum Corporation LimitedOXC1,296,506,662119,825,015$10.82$9.47-12.5%
Lightstream Resources Ltd.LTS1,257,107,698200,176,385$6.28$4.08-35.0%
Advantage Oil & Gas Ltd.AAV1,228,830,837170,651,966$7.20$5.10-29.2%
Long Run Exploration Ltd.LRE1,097,545,166194,204,965$5.65$3.58-36.7%
Spartan Energy Corp.SPE1,096,574,094262,338,300$4.18$3.22-23.0%
RMP Energy Inc.RMP1,068,310,163122,092,590$8.75$6.30-28.0%

A cursory look reveals that the quoted market price of all of these corporations are significantly less than what they were from August 31st, however, some got hammered more than others.

Whenever one invests in a resource company, there is always the implicit assumption that you believe the commodity price underlying the resource will rise. There is absolutely zero point in investing otherwise unless if there is a very special situation to warrant it (e.g. the firm in question has a huge hedged position on the resource that will allow it to economically outlast its soon-to-be bankrupt peer group).

Ideally you want to invest in a company with a cost structure that is at the marginal point of profitability and that has the market pricing the company assuming it will make little money in the future, and then have the commodity price increase. The embedded leverage in these high cost producers is significant – and I will keep on repeating this – under the assumption that the underlying commodity price increases.

Looking at the “least and most killed” list, we have two companies that I consider to be the cream of the crop in the Canadian oil and gas industry, ARC Resources (TSX: ARX) and Peyto Exploration (TSX: PEY) that are scratched – about 9 and 11% losses, not too bad considering the drop in commodity prices. These two companies have quite good managements and they are very focused on financial return on investment. I actually consider it too bad they did not get a 25 or 30% haircut as they are reasonably good “grandmother and grandfather” type equities that should be able to weather the full storm of a commodity cycle.

On the “ripped to shreds” list, we have Athabasca Oil Corp (TSX: ATH) that I will not touch because they simply have the incorrect economic structure (this can be saved for another post although you can read me correctly passing up on their IPO on this post).

Working the way down the losers list, a few names caught my attention. Lightstream Resources (TSX: LTS), formerly Petrobakken (TSX: PBN) is an entity that I will not be investing in, but I amusingly note that it is finally reaching what I would consider to be a fair value. There was a very dedicated individual out there that was deriding my analysis on its over-valuation which the market finally appeared to have corrected. (Feel free to read these articles here).

However, a couple old titans from the income trust era, Penn West (TSX: PWT) and Pengrowth (TSX: PGF) caught my attention. Penn West notably went through an accounting scandal when they changed top management and the subsequent audit resolved some issues pertaining to the capitalization of what should have been operating expenses. This involved the inflation of the net income line. Having the commodity oil market fall from underneath them did not help either. PWT made the unfortunate mistake of going to natural gas development at precisely the wrong time, but they hold a bunch of other more conventional oil assets which firmly put them in the ordinary category.

Notably they are trading at about a third of their stated book value. One would have to ask themselves if they were to start up that company from scratch how much would be paid to do so. Even when dumping goodwill and accumulated exploration assets (money already spent to do exploration work), there’s still about $4.9 billion in equity on the balance sheet while the market cap is around $2.7 billion today. Just from a fundamental value perspective, while previous investors got hosed, it may be a better entry point than not. The stock is likely to face tax loss selling pressure between now and the rest of the year so there’s not likely any rush to get in on a retail level.

Pengrowth is also going through an ambitious capital plan with the development of a heavy oil resource (their “Lindbergh” project) that apparently has good economics, along the lines of a Cenovus project. There is obvious execution risk with this project as many oil and gas companies have touted the promise of heavy oil while being able to produce nothing. The couple differences I see here is that Pengrowth has been in the game long enough (they’ve been public since 1989) that they should by now know what they’re doing, and also they’ve successfully executed on a pilot project that has dredged up a not trivial amount of oil from the ground already. Time will tell.

Dumping goodwill and exploration assets from PGF’s balance sheet leaves $2.4 billion in book value, while market value is about $2.6 billion presently. On its face it does not appear to be as good a value as PWT, but it appears relatively cheap from a valuation perspective.

Notably, Penn West’s equity is trading with incredibly high implied volatility – about 85% on the January series for an at-the-money option. Pengrowth’s volatility is muted (around 35%). Liquidity in their option markets is garbage, plus trading options on Canadian exchanges is a very expensive process in terms of trading costs.

Both firms give out dividends and are roughly at 10% yield at present market value. Yields might be compromised in the future if oil prices continue to decline. At least investors here clearly are not paying any premium for yield since I think most of them have been scared away from the common stock when they stare at their capital losses – a few months ago they were paying for a 5% yield and while they received that, they got a 50% capital loss in exchange.

The last time oil was at around US$80/barrel was in June 2012. Both companies’ equities were trading at significantly higher levels than they are now, plus they have the advantage of the Canadian dollar being about 10 cents lower than what it was a couple years ago.

Do I have any clue where oil is going in the future? No. However, if you believe things have stabilized, certain oil and gas producer stocks seem to have been sold off disproportionately and would probably make a decent entry point.

Petrobakken / Lightstream

It has been some time since I’ve written about Petrobakken (prior slew of articles here), now renamed Lightstream Resources (TSX: LTS).

Pretty much the trajectory to its share price was what I was more or less expecting, simply because investors would come to the realization that capital expenditures are indeed expenses that are incurred today, as opposed to over some mythical amortization curve:

lts.to

A few weeks ago the company announced its targeted production rates, but finally started introducing language concerning the leveling off of its production. The language used in the release was quite creative:

As our resource play assets mature and our base decline rates gradually reduce, we continue to work towards levelling out our production profile and increasing our annual average production levels on a year over year basis. As we enter the fourth quarter, we are on target to exceed the lower end of our forecasted 8% to 12% annual average production growth (46,000 to 48,000 boepd) and we continue to target exit production in excess of 47,000 boepd. By addressing facility challenges and executing the remaining components of our 2013 capital program, we believe these achievements will be met within our capital budget of $700 to $725 million.

We are currently finalizing our operational and financial plans for next year and remain committed to improving our sustainability ratio (cash outflows compared to cash inflows), lowering our debt to cash flow ratio and improving our liquidity through the many options available to us, which include, but are not limited to, modulating capital expenditures, selling assets, terming-out debt, altering our dividend program or issuing equity. Over the long-term, we continue to target a sustainability ratio of 100% and a debt to cash flow ratio of 2.0 or less. We plan to announce further details with respect to these options when we release our 2014 guidance later in the fourth quarter of 2013.

I love the use of the word “modulating” instead of what it really is – a reduction. Once the production curve is levelled, the financial game is finally over – there is a very clear indication how much money is required to maintain stable production. And investors figured out some time ago that it is quite expensive to do so for what they are purchasing.

So when we look at the debt side of the balance sheet, both the banks and the bondholders are wondering how they’re getting their $2.1 billion back. The bondholders have to wait until 2020, but the banks will extract their pound of flesh in 2016 unless if the company gets serious in reducing its cash burn profile.

There is only one way this is going to occur – a reduction in dividends. They tried doing this stealthily by introducing a stock component to the dividend, but this will only further increase the erosion of the value of equity holders in the company. The lion’s share of cash will be going to debtholders in the future. That said, there is some value in the equity, but just not what it is currently trading for.

Market musing while being inactive

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I’ve still been doing nothing other than research but nothing worth investing in at the moment except for one illiquid play mentioned in an earlier post.

Here is a series of miscellaneous observations:

* I note that Apple (AAPL) continues its slide down to the point where I am wondering if they are pricing that the company is not going to be able to keep its premium pricing strategy. On paper, they are still massively profitable, but if competition continues to chip away at their product line (mainly through Samsung on the phone front and a variety of other realistic competitors on the tablet front), they might run into revenue growth problems. The company in their last fiscal year (ended September 2012) made $156.5 billion in revenues and this year the analysts are projecting an average of $182.8, which is a $26.3 billion increase year-to-year. This is a huge amount of growth and the law of large numbers will likely be catching up to Apple in short order.

* CP Rail (CP.TO) is trading at absurdly high valuations at present. They performed a change in management and the market is giving the new CEO a lot of credit, but the railroad business is very mature and I don’t have a clue why they are giving the equity such a huge premium at the moment. I’d be a seller at this price range (the C$130 mark).

* Anybody remember the big scare about rare earths a couple years ago when China started restricting the supply and most of those stocks went crazy? The big play here, Molycorp (MCP) has continued to slide into the gutter now that the market reality of the perceived shortage has completely gone away. The substitution effect is very powerful and MCP shareholders are holding the bag.

* Likewise, most other fossil fuel commodity companies, including my favourite company that has been so overrated by many, Petrobakken (PBN), are continuing to suffer. It is similar to how most gold mining companies are not faring nearly as well as the underlying commodity – it costs an increasing amount of money to extract the resource, so even if the commodity price is increasing, if your costs are increasing, you are not going to make much money. Even Crescent Point Energy (CPG.TO) is starting to lose its lustre.

* The other commodity market that is continuing to get my curiousity up is currency trading – the US dollar has continued to outperform most of the other global currencies. The only way that I play this is that I try to hedge my portfolio by having some US-denominated securities rather than using leveraged speculation.

* The two Canadian Real Estate financing proxies, Home Capital (HCG.TO) and Equitable Group (ETC.TO) warrant a further look. HCG has faded somewhat off of its 52-week high, but Equitable is still there. If people are still hyper-bearish on the Canadian real estate market, these two companies should be the first on anybody’s short selling list. Non-performing loans are still around the 0.3% level and currently still do not show any real signs of distress in the market. I am still riding the wave on Genworth MI (MIC.TO) and believe there is still a reasonable percentage gain to be realized from current price levels. The loan companies, however, are hugely leveraged and I’m finding it difficult to see value there when book values are so significantly below market prices.

* Long term interest rates have also taken a nose dive – the Canadian 10-year bond was skirting at the 2% yield a month ago, but now they are back down to 1.8%. The world is awash with capital and there are few places to deploy it where you’ll generate yield at an acceptable risk level. Eventually the leverage party will end and the fallout is going to be very brutal. Whether this happens in 2013, 2014 or later, nobody knows. But there will be fallout, and figuring out how to brace yourself for the fallout will be a big financial challenge over the next decade.

Petrobank cleaning the slate

Petrobank (TSX: PBG) announced today that they were selling their primary property asset, the May River project for $225 million. After paying off their $60 million bank debt, this will leave their corporate with approximately $165 million to figure out what to do in the meantime. Their other primary asset includes their 59% ownership stake in Petrobakken (TSX: PBN) which readers of this site will also know has its own issues, although it has solved its imminent financial problems by floating a $900M, 8.625% coupon bond issue with an 8 year maturity date.

Readers might suspect that I’d rather want to put my money in that bond than the equity.

This is about a clean a slate that Petrobank will have before it decides how to invest the proceeds in other projects. The May River project was not as successful as management anticipated and they likely hit the best bid they could solicit. The low-rate interest environment does create a lot of froth, and they were probably wise to take the money while they could.

Petrobakken trying to find the cash

On December 13, 2011, Petrobakken (TSX: PBN) released more information with respect to their 2012 plans and numbers.

The two salient snippets are as follows:

We are also pleased to announce our initial capital plan for 2012, which allow us to build on our 2011 operational success. We anticipate capital development expenditures of approximately $700 million, primarily focused on horizontal drilling and completions, predominantly in the Bakken and Cardium light oil plays. We expect that this drilling-focused activity will generate a 2012 exit production rate of between 50,000 and 54,000 boepd. Our estimated year-over-year average production growth will exceed 15%, on an absolute and per-share basis. We expect this initial 2012 program to be executed entirely from funds from operations, with surplus cash flow available to fund dividends and debt repayment.

For 2012 we estimate that our corporate base decline rate will be in the range of 30-35%. In 2010, our base production declined approximately 40%, while the 2011 base decline rate is now forecast at approximately 35%. We have been encouraged by the results of our recently completed wells, and we are also beginning to see the benefit of the continued maturation of our producing assets with a significant proportion of our production now coming from older, shallower decline, horizontal wells.

As part of our ongoing balance sheet management, and to reward continuing support from existing shareholders, we are pleased to announce the implementation of a DRIP. The DRIP provides eligible holders of common shares resident in Canada the opportunity to reinvest their monthly cash dividends in PetroBakken shares at a 5% discount to the then current market prices. Petrobank (59% shareholder of the Company) has indicated an intention to participate in the DRIP with respect to 50% of their PetroBakken shares, which will amount to $53 million in additional liquidity to the Company on an annual basis. Subject to the receipt of approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange, the DRIP will be implemented for the January 2012 dividend, which is payable in mid-February 2012. Additional information regarding the DRIP can be found below.

The company is planning on spending $700M in capex in 2012, which is a decrease from projected 2011 capex numbers of $900M. The capital budget for 2012 will be slightly below their operating cash flow for the year, assuming current oil prices remain steady (a 12-month extrapolation of 2011 figures for the first nine months is $650M, noting that WTIC prices were lower then than they are now).

It still leaves one wondering when the company is actually going to generate significant amounts of cash in excess of capital expenditures – when you add the $180M of dividends projected in 2012 (minus the ~$53M that Petrobank will re-invest for Petrobakken equity), it does not leave much for them to pay off their February 2013 debenture, which holders have a one-day put option to redeem (and given the small coupon and the credit profile of the company, they most certainly will unless if there is a sweetener given to them in the interim).

The DRIP decision in itself is rather interesting – it effectively starves half the cash flow that Petrobank will receive from Petrobakken in exchange for further equity. Since Petrobank owns 59% of Petrobakken, it will result in Petrobank foregoing $53M/year in dividends in exchange for further equity. Assuming a $13/share price for Petrobakken, this will mean Petrobakken will issue 4.3M shares to Petrobank over 2012 – a cost of capital of 7.8% for Petrobakken, assuming the dividend is not cut. This is expensive capital for the company.

The company has hedged a significant amount of oil (20,000 boepd, about 40% of its expected production) with existing high prices which I think is a smart decision. Still, they are extremely leveraged and their only salvation is continued high oil prices. If there is any significant contraction in the price of oil, they will be in clear financial difficulty, especially when it comes to negotiating with the $750M debenture that is effectively due in February of 2013.

Petrobakken Q3-2011: Still burning cash

One anonymous bullish person on Petrobakken (TSX: PBN) posted the following comment upon the release of PBN’s third quarter report:

The only thing you can say about PBN’s results is: outstanding.

This was a big time turn-around from 2Q spring breakup.

They are already at 47,500 per day and expect to exit 2011 at over 49,000 per day (49k was their previous year end exit number, so this is a production beat and raise). BMO’s analyst was at 39k. How wrong he is.

Assuming a go-forward production rate of approximately 49,000 boepd (87% oil weighted), the estimated discretionary cash flow would be approximately $905 million in 2012, assuming US$90 WTI, foreign exchange of 0.975, AECO CDN$3.50 and a 5% differential. A $10 change in oil = $100MM change in cash flow.

Analysts are expecting this year’s $900MM capital program to be repeated next year… Management gave hints it might be much less (perhaps ~$500MM). This which would mean FCF could be $400MM or more. So much for their balance sheet problems.

Their covenants are easily being met.

Looks like the cross-over point when cash flow will meet spending needs + dividends will be sometime in 2012 (based on $90 oil and reasonable production growth).

Three wells have been drilled in the new plays and they aren’t saying much. That is a good sign.

@Kevin @Sacha – you still have time to reverse course. I would suggest it’s much better to focus on this deep value opportunity than Yellow Media or BAC. Poor souls.

I’m not sure whether we were reading the same quarterly report or not. Average bopde for the first 9 months of the fiscal year is down 8% from 2010 to 2011 (page 10); the emphasis on “estimated” or “current” production is relatively meaningless unless if such production can be sustained – and if so, at what capital cost? Reading the report, Q4’s capex is going to be yet again over operating cash flow.

Average WTIC in CDN$ was up 16% on average from 2010 to 2011, which is a boost to the company’s results – there is no doubt whatsoever that high oil prices will assist Petrobakken, along with any other crude production company. Despite the production drop, this price gain in WTIC increased the revenue intake. Indeed, crude price rises will be their only real way for salvation – if they experience drops in crude pricing, it will be financially very damaging below a certain point.

Now it could be the case that Israel does an air strike on Iran and crude oil spikes – getting lucky with Deus Ex Machina is one way of realizing investment gains.

Cash outflow (primarily through capital expenditures) was about $106M over operational cash flows – add another $45M in dividends out the door in the quarter means the company digs another $151M deeper into its bank facility – they will be forced to slow down capital expenditures as they are running up against their bank credit line and also have to face the issue with the put they sold on their US$750M debenture issue (February 2013). When the capital expenditure spigot stops – how quickly will that production fade? We’ll find out pretty soon.

No positions in PBN, nor will I be creating any.

Petrobakken finally realizing its high leverage

Petrobakken (TSX: PBN) gave a quarterly status update with respect to its production and indeed, it is around what it stated (43,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day).

Most interestingly is the paragraphs they devoted towards recent speculation concerning their debt levels, with me bold-facing some of the quoted material below for emphasis:

At the end of September, PetroBakken had $1.14 billion drawn (essentially unchanged from the end of June 2011) on our three year, $1.35 billion credit facility, leaving us with over $200 million of credit capacity available on the current line in addition to our growing cash flow. Recently, there has been some market focus on our convertible debentures which mature in February 2016. The debentures have a one-time, one-day early put option on February 8, 2013 that allows those holders that elect to exercise the option to request payment in full for their debentures. In the event that holders request payment, PetroBakken has the option to repay in cash or through the issuance of PetroBakken shares based on the then current share price.

The Company has been, and will continue to be, pursuing various options to provide additional flexibility in order to repay any bonds that may be put back to us with either cash or shares. In addition to our growing production base and the potential for increasing cash flow over time, those options include: modifying our capital program and/or altering our dividend to provide additional free cash flow; issuing additional debt instruments; instituting a dividend reinvestment program; renegotiating the terms of the existing convertible debentures; or realizing on asset sales. Early in the second quarter of 2011, the Company engaged TD Securities Inc. as financial advisor, to assist the Company in our assessment and pursuit of certain options to provide increased liquidity, and we continue to actively evaluate alternatives going forward. Further announcements on the progress of this process will be made at the appropriate time.

We have positioned our asset base to focus on value creation for our shareholders, and decisions on how best to manage the business are made with both a short term and long term strategic outlook in mind. PetroBakken has built a strong portfolio of assets with a multi-year inventory of light oil drilling locations from which we can generate accretive, long term, growth. This portfolio includes over 440,000 net acres with over 1,400 net drilling locations in the well established Bakken and Cardium light oil resource plays; more than 480,000 net undeveloped acres and 300 light oil net drilling locations for conventional opportunities in southeast Saskatchewan; over 120,000 net undeveloped acres on new potential light oil resource plays (many that have seen significant attention by the industry in recent land sales); and a material land position in northeast British Columbia for future natural gas opportunities. With this asset base, and based on our current activity plans, we intend to deliver year-end 2011 production of 46,000 to 49,000 boepd. At the mid-point of this range, and based on US$85 WTI per barrel, we would expect to generate annualized cash flow of approximately $850 million. With expected continued growth in production in 2012, we would anticipate funds flow from operations (based on a similar WTI price) to grow further to equal or exceed our total capital expenditures and dividend payments. However, if conditions change, we will not hesitate to evaluate the other alternatives available to us, including altering our dividend and/or capital spending levels.

Current economic conditions and market rumours have caused shareholder focus to be turned away from the high quality, light oil assets that underpin the Company, to the perceived strength of our balance sheet in light of the convertible debenture put date (that is 16 months away) and our current capital and dividend plans. We are aware of the concern over our debt position and, as outlined above, we have several options at our disposal which we are actively assessing to effectively manage this situation in varying commodity price environments while continuing to pursue our strategies for long term, accretive, growth.

Some notes that went through my head:

1. The company’s current market capitalization is CAD$1.26 billion; the amount of the convertible note is US$750M. At present prices a share conversion would result in a 38% dilution of shareholder interest in the company. In addition, the additional amount of shares would virtually guarantee a dividend decrease (the convertible note’s coupon is 3.125%).

2. How much in capital expenditures does it take to sustain a production level at 43,000 boepd, or even to expand it to 46,000-49,000 boepd? If the company decided to pare back capital expenditures, how fast would production decrease? The large problem with the wells the company is producing is that the majority of oil obtained comes from the first year – production tapers off rapidly from the initial production.

3. Is WTIC at US$85 a valid assumption? Obviously this is something the company can’t control but is an obvious factor in the market price. At 47,500 boepd, WTIC at US$85 for CAD$850M operating cash flow will drop significantly as WTIC goes lower (more than a CAD$10M decrease to a US$1 drop in WTIC!). The operating cash flow is ultimately an incomplete figure since it goes back to question #2 where you have to ask yourself how much in capital expenditures will it take to actually keep production at that level. However, they do have 8000 boepd (roughly 17% of expected production) hedged with an average floor of US$76.09 WTIC in the year 2012. This still will not protect them from more significant decreases in oil prices.

I still believe Petrobakken equity is trading above fair value. They will be going through a painful de-leveraging as they figure out how to cough up US$750 million in 16 months.

Petrobakken – plunging down

While I have been losing a small amount of money on Yellow Media’s preferred shares jaunt to zero, fortunately I have steered far away from Petrobakken (TSX: PBN) which I have written here many times before.

They will not have an easy time renewing their credit facility which expires on June 3, 2012. The debtors are clearly in control of this one, just like how they are in control of Yellow Media. There is $1.14 billion in bank debt at the June 30, 2011 quarterly report. Another looming timeline is a US$750M debenture which holders have a put right – they give notice in December 2012 and the company must redeem at February 8, 2013.

(Update, September 29, 2011: Apparently they managed to renew their credit facility with an extra $150M in the facility… oops! This was announced in their Q2 financial update, which completely escaped me – this kind of blows a hole in the immediacy of cutting the dividend in the subsequent analysis, but there still remains a significant debt renewal of US$750M that will be taking place in February 2013).

From the MD&A, August 9, 2011:

As at June 30, 2011, PetroBakken had $1.14 billion of bank debt drawn on our $1.35 billion credit facility. Our credit facility is with a syndicate of banks and has a maturity date of June 2, 2014. The amount of the facility is based on, among other things, reserves, results from operations, current and forecasted commodity prices and the current economic environment. The credit facility provides that advances may be made by way of direct advances, banker’s acceptances, or standby letters of credit/guarantees. Direct advances bear interest at the bank’s prime lending rate plus an applicable margin for Canadian dollar advances, and at the bank’s US base rate plus an applicable margin for US dollar advances. The applicable margin charged by the bank is based on a sliding scale ratio of PetroBakken’s debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depletion, depreciation and amortization (“EBITDA”). The facility is secured by a $2.0 billion demand debenture and a securities pledge on the Company’s assets. The credit facility has financial covenants that limit the ratio of secured debt to EBITDA to 3:1, limit the ratio of total debt (total debt defined as facility debt plus the value of outstanding debentures in Canadian dollars) to EBITDA to 4:1, and limit secured debt to 50% of total liabilities plus total equity. The Company is in compliance with all of these covenants.

The TTM EBITDA is $659M, thus they are comfortably in compliance with this ratio. You would think the banks would be slightly uncomfortable with lending this much money in a company that is so heavy on capital expenditures.

My immediate guess is that the company will have to seriously curtail, if not outright suspend their dividend until such a time they are able to repay a substantial portion of their credit facility. This is not news to me – I had predicted this in May of 2011.

Another course of action they will likely implement is a slowdown of their capital expenditures. The only consequence of this, however, is that they will not be able to keep up their production levels, which their wells strongly taper off after the first year of drilling. This in turn will hinder their financial results.

The company is also highly sensitive to the price of oil and the past six months of WTIC trading has not helped their cause any.

Even though PBN has been sent down over 50% over the past couple months, it is still trading above my fair value.