QEP Resources Inc. said this week it has launched a strategic review to explore the possibility of merging with another operator or selling the company.
The announcement came on the same day as QEP said a deal to exit the Williston Basin folded after it terminated a definitive agreement to sell assets to Vantage Energy Acquisition Corp. The company first announced the deal to earn up to $1.725 billion from the Williston sale in November, but said Wednesday falling commodity prices had eroded the likelihood of completing it.
As part of the strategic review, QEP said it plans to have discussions with a “wide variety of parties” that have expressed interest in a potential transaction, including Elliott Management Corp., which offered last month to buy the company.
“We enter 2019 with a renewed focus on actively managing and improving our cost structure,” specifically reducing general and administrative (G&A) expenses, “and lowering the capital intensity of the business,” said CEO Tim Cutt. “We are committed to aligning our activity and our production profile to the current commodity price environment and reaching cash flow neutrality.”
QEP has spent the last year or so pivoting from a multi-basin, multi-commodity strategy to one with a narrower focus. With the Williston deal, it had planned to become a Permian Basin pure-play.
After divesting gas-weighted assets in the Haynesville Shale, Uinta Basin and Pinedale Anticline, QEP indicated it plans to trim its workforce and “has reassessed its organizational needs” with a eye on reducing G&A expenses by 45%.
Like other operators across the country, the company is also cutting capital spending to $615-665 million after spending $1.2 billion in 2018. This year’s budget would fund a three-rig Permian program in West Texas during the first half of 2019 (1H2019) and a two-rig program in the second half. The company also plans to run one rig for part of the year in North Dakota, but only seven gross operated wells are planned in the Williston.
Production is expected to come in at roughly 30 million boe this year. While the company produced 23.9 million bbl of oil in 2018, it’s now guiding for up to 21.5 million bbl of oil volumes.
Management also indicated that it would supplement cash flows by monetizing the natural gas midstream assets in the Permian in 1H2019 and explore options for other properties. QEP mostly works in the Permian’s Midland sub-basin.
The company produced 11.6 million boe in 4Q2018, down 4% from the year-ago period. The decline was driven by decreased oil production in the Williston, reduced activity in the Haynesville ahead of the planned divestiture and selling the Uinta Basin assets. For the full year, QEP produced 51.9 million boe, down slightly from 53.1 million boe in 2017.
The company reported a fourth quarter net loss of $629.3 million (minus $2.66/share), compared with net income of $150.3 million (62 cents) in 4Q2017.
For the full year, QEP reported a net loss of $1 billion (minus $4.25/share), compared with net income of $269.3 million ($1.12) in 2017. The losses included a $1.2 billion impairment expense related to terminating the Williston sale.