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Gulfport Shakes Off Slow Start to 2014, Exceeds Expectations

After a slow start to 2014, a rebound in Gulfport Energy Corp.'s operations that began in the second half of the year appeared to sustain itself, as the company announced Monday an exit rate of 68,000 boe/d, which was well above management's previous forecast.

Production in 1Q2014 and 2Q2014 was mostly flat, moving from 26,725 boe/d to 27,087 boe/d. Following a mid-year announcement from CEO Mike Moore, who was appointed in April, regarding a new strategy aimed at tempering the pace of development for its growing position in Ohio's Utica Shale, the outlook for the second half of the year wasn't looking much different (see Shale DailyMay 8, 2014April 24, 2014).

But a plan to build an inventory of wells for streamlined work and the implementation of a managed pressure program to preserve reservoir quality and the life of its Utica wells helped steadily grow production instead. The company's 68,000 boe/d exit rate was well above the 55,000 boe/d the company had guided for and exceeded analysts’ expectations as well.

The company also finished 6% ahead of its quarterly guidance in 3Q2014 at 42,332 boe/d (see Shale DailyOct. 15, 2014). Combined with 4Q2014 production of about 59,800 boe/d, the company should finish well within its full-year guidance of 37,000-42,000 boe/d.

Gulfport's year-end production consisted of 73% natural gas and 27% oil and natural gas liquids, a mix analysts thought would be slightly drier.

"We believe the company will maintain a healthy level of activity in 2015, given its strong economics, ample liquidity, solid hedge book and firm takeaway to premium markets," Topeka Capital Markets said in a research note.

Still, Gulfport's stock moved lower on the Nasdaq Monday on lower commodity prices that could restrain the company's operations next year, according to analysts. It reduced its rig count in the Utica from eight in 3Q2014 to six last quarter. Gulfport delayed offering details about its 2015 capital spending and drilling program, when it announced last year's exit rate on Monday.

"With regard to 2015 activities, we continue to thoughtfully plan our 2015 capital spending and anticipate providing 2015 guidance prior to, or in conjunction with, our fourth quarter and full-year 2014 earnings release" in February, Moore said.

Gulfport has assets in Texas, Colorado, Louisiana and Canada, but it's focused heavily on growing its position in Ohio's Utica Shale in recent years. It had 106,000 net acres there at the beginning of 2013, which has since grown to 184,000 net acres. Gulfport also completed and brought online 22 gross wells in the Utica last quarter, which was above the 14-20 it had planned in its guidance.

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