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Keane Adding U.S. Fracture Fleets, Raising Prices as Outlook Improves

Sixteen of the Keane Group Inc.'s 23 hydraulic fracturing fleets now are working across the U.S. onshore, representing 70% utilization, a positive sign for growth through this year, the Houston operator said Wednesday.

On average, 12 fleets were deployed during 4Q2016, and it exited the year with 13 fleets. After buying most of Calgary-based Trican Well Service Ltd.’s U.S. assets last year, the well completions specialist has about 950,000 hydraulic hp deployed mostly across Texas, with fleets also in Appalachia and the Bakken Shale.

"We are encouraged by the increase in well completion activity we are seeing across our diversified footprint," said CEO James Stewart, who helmed a conference call on Wednesday to discuss fourth quarter and full-year performance.

"This pace of recovery allowed us to activate three hydraulic fracturing fleets from warm to hot status during the fourth quarter, and all three of which have been deployed during the first quarter, including two in January."

Responding to "strong customer demand" and the expectation that strong growth will continue, Keane has begun hiring more employees, Stewart said.

Pricing also continued to improve during the first quarter, with new dedicated capacity pricing up about 25% sequentially on a gross basis. Those factors and "general improvement in market conditions lead us to expect sequential gross revenue increases of between 30% and 40% in the first quarter of 2017."

Recent input cost inflation, including for sand used in fracturing, "will continue to be a headwind for the industry. However, our agreements allow us to adjust pricing every three to six months to align contract pricing to market terms, which may cause short term margin compression but not impact long-term profitability. In addition, we continue to leverage our scale in the market to drive efficiencies on our supply chain and logistics network with increased volume and activity."

Overall, the company expects the favorable trends in pricing and operating efficiency to generate cash flow from incremental fleet deployment.

"As a result, we are prepared to responsibly accelerate the reactivation of our remaining horsepower, subject to the hiring and proper training of our crews."

Keane reported a net loss of $38.5 million in 4Q2016, compared with a year-ago loss of $25.7 million. Adjusted quarterly earnings were $6.1 million versus $400,000. Revenue was sharply higher year/year at $151 million from $54 million. For full-year 2016, net loss was $187.1 million, compared with a 2015 loss of $64.6 million, while revenue rose 15% to $420.6 million from $366.2 million.

Completion services revenue rose 17% year/year in the final period to $148 million. Keane had a 52% utilization rate in the fourth quarter, with 62% bundled with wireline.

"Our completion services business continues to benefit from our strategic focus on partnering with the most dependable and efficient customers," said CFO Gregory L. Powell. "In addition, our flexible logistics and supply chain network has allowed us to remain nimble, efficient and reliable in responding to the increasingly complex demands of our customers. Furthermore, the approximate doubling of rig count levels since the low point of the downturn provides validation and reason for optimism about upward trends in price and activity levels."

In late January Keane completed an initial public offering of 30.774 million common shares at a price of $19/share for which it received $260.3 million net. In February it also has entered into a $150 million senior secured term loan with Owl Rock Capital Corp. to shore up liquidity, which has been increased by about $107.1 million since the start of the year.

"Our new public company platform provides significant benefits and establishes a broader set of capital opportunities for Keane," Powell said. "This positions us well to take advantage of market opportunities and execute on our growth plan, which includes both deployment of our remaining fleet and potential acquisitions."

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