Gulfport Energy Corp. finished an active 2017 by spending more than it expected, but the company intends to change direction with plans for a reduced 2018 capital budget funded entirely within cash flow.
“In the current environment, we are dedicated to strict capital discipline and are in the position to be able to generate free cash flow for our shareholders while also providing strong production growth,” CEO Michael Moore said, echoing the sentiments of other operators looking to return more to shareholders this year.
Gulfport set a 2018 capital expenditure (capex) plan of $770-835 million, well below a 2017 budget of $1.16 billion guided for at the end of the third quarter. The capex blueprint came in below Wall Street consensus, as did 2018 production guidance of 1.25-1.3 Bcfe/d.
While financial analysts seemed to favor the capital discipline message, they were more bearish on the year-end results and growth forecast. The stock was trading near a 52-week low at around $11/share on Tuesday afternoon.
Delineation efforts in the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province (SCOOP), along with core acreage consolidation and other activities, forced Gulfport to spend more than expected. Gulfport spent $262 million in 4Q2017, implying that it overshot the full-year budget by 7%, according to analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.
While Gulfport beat production guidance for most of 2017, it failed to meet Wall Street consensus in the fourth quarter, reporting 1.263 Bcfe/d for the period. That was still a 5% increase from 3Q2017 and a 61% increase from the year-ago period. Fourth quarter production also landed the company in its 1.065-1.1 Bcfe/d full-year 2017 guidance.
Gulfport plans to spend up to $685 million for drilling and completion activities this year and up to $150 million for midstream and leasehold operations.
Plans call for 2.5 operated rigs in the Utica Shale, where Gulfport has budgeted up to 29 net wells and turning up to 37 net wells to sales. In the SCOOP, which it entered early last year, Gulfport plans run three operated rigs, drill up to 11 net wells and turn up to 18 net wells to sales. The company plans to run one recompletion rig at its legacy properties on the Gulf Coast in Southern Louisiana.
The board also approved a stock repurchase program to acquire up to $100 million of outstanding common shares this year.