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Noble Energy Slices 2016 Capex Plan by Half

Noble Energy Inc. has begun this year with a capital spending budget of $1.5 billion, about half of its planned spending in 2015, the Houston independent said Tuesday.

At that level of capital expenditures (capex), Noble expects to deliver annual sales volumes this year of 390,000 boe, which management said was consistent with full-year 2015 pro forma amounts. The quarterly cash dividend also has been reduced sharply to 10 cents/share from 18 cents.

"The decision to adjust the quarterly dividend, along with a substantially reduced and flexible capital program for 2016, is part of a comprehensive effort to spend within cash flow and manage the company's balance sheet," CFO Kenneth M. Fisher said. "We also intend to reduce leverage in this environment. The dividend adjustment and our recent debt refinancing provide approximately $200 million annually in support of these efforts.

"Paying a dividend remains an important element of our long-term value creation strategy," and the board plans to evaluate it on a quarterly basis. "The 2016 program remains flexible to changes in the commodity price environment..." More details about capex and where spending will be earmarked are expected when fourth quarter results are issued on Feb. 17.

Noble last month said fourth quarter output should be about 405,000-415,000 boe/d, with the midpoint representing a 15,000 boe/d increase from an earlier 2015 forecast (see Shale DailyDec. 10, 2015). The producer credited the production increase on improved completion techniques in the Eagle Ford Shale and Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin, along with initial results from stakes in Gulf of Mexico wells.

Noble improved its efficiency techniques over the course of last year. During 3Q2015 the producer spent 14% less sequentially to build wells in the Texas and northern Colorado plays (see Shale Daily, Nov. 2). The Eagle Ford and DJ also are expected to attract most of Noble's funding in 2016, CEO Dave Stover said in November.

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