With the purchase of Patina Oil & Gas Corp. now complete, Noble Energy Inc. CEO Chuck Davidson said Thursday that the company's North American acquisitions and development will be focused on "tactical portfolio additions."

Speaking at the company's annual analyst meeting, Davidson said that with the Patina acquisition, Noble's exploration is now focused on delivering "more significant resources," and said its increased oil and gas volumes -- and high commodity prices -- will enable the company's international business to explore new ventures and opportunities. "It allows a lengthened planning horizon as near term becomes more certain," Davidson said.

Noble announced its $3.4 billion acquisition of Patina late last year (see NGI, Dec. 20, 2004). Now that Patina is part of Noble, Davidson said, "there is even greater confidence in both production growth and relative cost improvement," adding that Noble's "delivery of strategic objectives has been significantly accelerated."

Davidson told analysts, "the basic strategy elements remain. We will aggressively drive organic growth programs and leverage our unique expertise both in North America and internationally." He also said that Noble would be "vigilant" in reducing costs, and would maintain its financial strength so that "we can weather the cycles."

Lehman Brothers analyst Thomas Driscoll said the meeting had a "very upbeat tone." Lehman now is forecasting 15% proforma production growth in 2006, "followed by the potential of very strong growth in 2007." Noble's 2005 production guidance of 150,000 boe/d "is in line with our estimate of 152,800 boe/d, but 2006 guidance of 200,000-210,000 boe/d is 5-10% above our estimate." He attributed the "upside surprise" to Noble's higher volumes from additional sales contracts overseas in Israel.

"We believe the merger with Patina gives Noble a far more balanced portfolio in terms of geography (onshore versus offshore and domestic versus international) and provides it with a stable production base," Driscoll wrote in a note to clients. "On a proforma basis, Noble's 1Q2005 production was 49% onshore, 32% international and 19% Gulf of Mexico (GOM). This is in contrast to 1998 when 63% of production came from the GOM, 29% from onshore U.S. and the remainder 8% from international assets. On a reserves basis, post merger, Noble has 52% reserves in the U.S. versus 27% before the merger."

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