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EXCO Pins Hopes to JVs, Eagle Ford and Haynesville Expansions

Officials with EXCO Resources Inc. said its acquisitions in the Eagle Ford and Haynesville shales during the second quarter were the foundation for future expansion, while its financial position would be bolstered through its joint ventures (JV) with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP (KKR), Harbinger Group Inc. and BG Group plc.

Last month, EXCO purchased 55,000 net acres in the liquids-rich portion of the Eagle Ford Shale and 9,600 net acres in the drier Haynesville Shale from Chesapeake Energy Corp. for $1 billion (see Shale DailyJuly 5). The acquisitions were in Texas and Louisiana, respectively.

"We're real happy with it," CEO Doug Miller said during an earnings call with financial analysts on Tuesday. "I think the deal that was negotiated was a good deal for both Chesapeake and us."

In February, EXCO and Harbinger closed on a $725 million partnership for conventional non-shale oil and gas assets (see Daily GPINov. 6, 2012). Included in the JV are miscellaneous assets in West Texas, including and above the Canyon Sand formation, as well as in the Danville, Waskom, Holly and Vernon fields in East Texas and North Louisiana, including and above the Cotton Valley formation.

Miller said the JV with Harbinger "continues to operate in very good shape. We're looking at several significant acquisitions in that JV. It's working just as expected. It's conventional, long life gas with a lot of locations parked over there."

Under the deal with Chesapeake, an affiliate of BG was given the preferential right to acquire 50% of the Haynesville properties. "They have until Sept. 12 to give us an answer," Miller said. "We've given them all the data. We just don't know which way they're going to come out, so we'll report when that happens. And we'll go either way, that's their right."

In the Eagle Ford, affiliates of KKR sold EXCO an undivided 50% interest in undeveloped acreage in the play for $131 million. The companies agreed to jointly develop the acreage under a participation agreement.

"The JVs with Harbinger and BG and KKR give us a lot of flexibility," Miller said. "I think KKR is very interested. We've kind of created a cookie cutter to do this JV in other significant plays. We are looking at other areas. We would like to get bigger in the Marcellus. If we can find the right West Texas deal -- that would be another area that we would have an interest."

Miller later added that in the Eagle Ford, EXCO's focus "is to become one of the better operators down there. Our guys have been pawing at the dirt for the last six months because we thought we were going to close this [deal with Chesapeake] earlier. We're ready, willing and able."

During the Q&A session, Miller said EXCO is currently in discussions with "all" of the operators in the Haynesville.

"There aren't a lot of deals out there, but we're in discussions on two or three fronts on that right now," Miller said. "Most of them would include some production with them. Almost everything in our neighborhood or a neighborhood that we'd have an interest in has at least one well drilled on each unit. So those discussions are underway."

Miller said EXCO was working with KKR to evaluate acreage in the Eagle Ford, but made it clear that the company also coveted expanding in West Texas.

"We would love to be involved in a fairly large way [in West Texas]," Miller said. "Any deals we do in West Texas would include production. We're not very good at just going out and buying acreage. We want production to come with it."

The CEO added the company was looking to expand in the dry gas window of the Marcellus, too, but he conceded that hammering out a deal there could be more difficult.

"We're looking at maybe doing some trades with some of the other operators up there," Miller said. "Unfortunately for us, we have a lot of acreage, but we don't have 100,000 acres together. We have a lot of plays up there where we have 15 [or] 20 locations to drill and then we're done in the area. That's one of the difficulties up there. So we're working on some trades with some of the larger companies where they have 10,000 or 15,000 acres in the same neighborhood. And it looks like we're going to be successful because we have some acreage that fits them."

EXCO reported adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $90 million for 2Q2013, a 19.6% decrease from the $112 million earned during the previous second quarter. Adjusted net income was $0.10/diluted share for 2Q2013, which was double from 2Q2012 ($0.05/diluted share).

Oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL) production was 38 Bcfe, or 420 MMcfe/d during the second quarter of 2013, a 24% decrease from the 50 Bcfe (550 MMcfe/d) produced during 2Q2012. But oil and gas revenue totaled $150.3 million for 2Q2013, a 27.4% increase from the $118.0 million in oil and gas revenue for 2Q2012.

Motley Fool's Jeremy Bowman said EXCO easily beat analysts' projection of $141.2 million of oil and gas revenue for the quarter, and lauded the company's improvements in production efficiency and acquisitions in the Eagle Ford and Haynesville shales. But he said analysts had also expected earnings of $0.11 cents/diluted share, so EXCO's stock took a hit on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

EXCO shares were trading at near $8.99/share during midday trading Monday on the NYSE. By Wednesday afternoon, it was trading at $7.82/share, a 13% decrease.

 "Aside from the narrow earnings miss, this seemed to be a pretty solid report," Bowman said Tuesday. "With analysts predicting a drop in revenue the next two quarters, the lower-than-expected profits may sting more than normal. Still, EXCO looks a solid bet after today's drop, as it trades at a reasonable value, and its plans to expand should ensure growing profits."

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