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Apache Reducing Capex, Selling Two Gassy Onshore Leaseholds

Apache Corp. on Thursday agreed to sell natural gas-heavy properties in South Louisiana and the Anadarko Basin for $1.4 billion as it downshifts in North America and streamlines its operations.

CEO G. Steven Farris and his management team laid out the ambitious, albeit smaller, capital spending plan for 2015 during a half-day investor conference in New York City.

"Our strategy has not changed," Farris told analysts. "It's evolved," and is becoming more North American-centric than ever. "We're dead-eye serious about building a premier North American company," one that's more predictable earnings-wise and less volatile overall.

With capital expenditures trimmed by 25% in the coming year to $4 billion, North American onshore liquids are forecast to grow by 12-16%, adjusted for asset sales. Onshore production overall is forecast to increase by 8-12% on a boe basis. The forecasts are based on $80.00/bbl oil and $4.00/Mcf natural gas.

"We have made great progress in strategically positioning our North American onshore portfolio for high growth and high returns," Farris said. “We continue to focus on growing liquids production from our deep inventory of North American resource locations."

In southern Louisiana, Apache is selling its working interests in 90,000 net acres to an undisclosed buyer. The fields are mature, characterized by high decline rates and short reserve lives, COO John Christmann told analysts.

The Louisiana assets in 3Q2014 produced 21,000 boe/d net, 62% weighted to gas and natural gas liquids (NGL). About 275,000 mineral acres underlying the assets is being retained.

Also being sold are 115,000 net acres in the Anadarko Basin, also to an unnamed buyer. The Anadarko acreage runs through a portion of the Stiles Ranch Field in Wheeler County, TX, and in the Mocane-Laverne and Verden fields in western Oklahoma. Net production averaged 26,000 boe/d in 3Q2014, 83% weighted to gas and NGLs.

The two transactions are expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Since the start of 2013, Apache through June had sold close to $10 billion in assets, nearly all of them overseas and in the U.S. offshore. Some of the pressure to shrink has come from major shareholder Jana Partners LLC, which wants Apache to work only in the U.S. onshore (see Daily GPIJuly 22).

Still for sale are liquefied natural gas assets in British Columbia and Australia. The international portfolio also is to be spun off or sold.

Despite the long list of asset sales, Apache continues to build its leasehold in select areas of the United States. This year, it added more than 300,000 acres in key growth plays, building more than 3,000 drilling locations in the Eagle Ford alone. Another 800 drilling locations have been added to the emerging Canyon Lime play also in Texas.

The proceeds from the latest sales are to be used primarily to fund the 2014 acquisitions, Farris said.

"We are excited about our 2015 drilling plan, which will focus on projects that generate high rates of return and competitive growth, even in today's lower oil price environment."

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