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SM Energy Shares Soar 21% on Production Beat

Shares of Denver-based SM Energy Co. took off Tuesday after the company reported production growth that beat guidance and Wall Street expectations.

SM Energy shares closed up more than 21% at $49.61 after touching $49.65 intraday. Volume was more than eight times the norm as investors were apparently hungry for good news out of the energy patch. The New York Stock Exchange Arca Oil & Gas Index gained a more modest 3.26% for the day. SM Energy is still far from its 52-week high of $90.38.

"Our strong production growth was primarily driven by new completions in our Eagle Ford program, and we continued our track record of adding reserves through the drill bit at low costs," CEO Jay Ottoson said in a statement released after the market closed Monday. "Our proved undeveloped reserves and large inventory of unproved drilling projects are economic at year-end 2014 forward strip pricing and expected costs. Additionally, we enter 2015 with a strong balance sheet and substantial liquidity."

The company reported record average daily production for the fourth quarter of 175,800 boe/d, 13% above the midpoint of previously provided quarterly guidance of 152,000 to 159,000 boe/d. The outperformance was largely driven by the company's South Texas and Gulf Coast region. The Street had been expecting fourth quarter production of 155,800 boe/d.

For 2014 SM Energy reported annual average daily production of 151,100 boe/d, which represents 14% reported production growth from 2013. On a retained property basis, production grew 22% year over year.

"Although Q4 production is definitely positive, it probably doesn't eliminate questions over Eagle Ford growth potential, commodity mix, and potential non-operated impact [partner Anadarko Petroleum Corp.] bias likely lower..." said Wells Fargo Securities Analyst David Tameron in a note Tuesday.

Proved reserves at the end of last year consisted of 31% oil/condensate, 45% natural gas, and 24% NGL’s.

Last year proved undeveloped reserves as a percentage of total proved reserves decreased to 48%, from 51% in 2013 as the company converted a larger amount of PUDs in 2014 compared to the prior year. During 2014 SM Energy converted 88.2 million boe of PUDs compared to 56 million boe of PUD conversions in 2013.

For 2014, SM Energy had all-in reserve replacement of 320%, and drilling reserve replacement of 261%. Last year was the fifth consecutive year in which SM Energy posted all-in reserve replacement exceeding 300% and drilling reserve replacement in excess of 250%.

Full fourth quarter and 2014 results are to be released Feb. 25.

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