Denver-based Forest Oil Corp. Wednesday said it would make interim CEO Patrick R. McDonald the company’s permanent chief, prompting speculation by one analyst that “all strategic options remain on the table for the company.”

“…Pat is the best candidate to lead Forest going forward,” said Chairman James D. Lightner. “Pat’s leadership has been instrumental in Forest taking the important initial steps to deleverage and strengthen the balance sheet, and he has successfully led the transition to an oil-focused operational strategy.”

McDonald had served as interim chief since June 21 while the company’s board conducted a search for a replacement for former CEO H. Craig Clark. Clark left the company abruptly, sparking speculation among analysts who follow Forest that it was because of a failure to strike a joint venture in the Eagle Ford Shale (see Shale Daily, June 25). McDonald, a geologist, has been a director at Forest since 2004. The newly permanent CEO pledged to grow the company’s oil and liquids portfolio while being “prudent” with the balance sheet.

Wells Fargo Securities analyst David Tameron and his team said the move was a positive for the company and could signal more news to come. “We believe the announcement may allow Street speculation surrounding the potential takeout of the company to continue, as a new CEO would have likely entered with a multiyear restructuring road map. From our take, all strategic options remain on the table,” Tameron said in a note Wednesday. He said he expects an update on asset sales when Forest releases third quarter earnings.

Also on Wednesday, Forest updated its guidance for the second half of the year. For the second half of 2012, Forest expects net sales volumes to average 330-340 MMcfe/d (66% natural gas, and 34% oil and natural gas liquids), which represents an increase of 3% compared to previous guidance of 320-330 MMcfe/d (67% natural gas and 33% oil and natural gas liquids) provided on July 9.

For the second half of 2012, Forest intends to invest $240-260 million for capital expenditures (excluding capitalized interest, capitalized stock-based compensation, and asset retirement obligations incurred), an increase of $50 million from previous guidance and primarily related to increased drilling efficiencies and a higher level of nonoperated drilling activity than previously expected. Forest entered the third quarter of 2012 operating nine drilling rigs and is currently operating five rigs within its core Texas Panhandle, Eagle Ford and East Texas programs.

Forest “activity remains focused on horizontal drilling in Buffalo Wallow/Granite Wash, with Eagle Ford providing upside and gas optionality in the Haynesville,” Tameron said. “With a streamlined asset base, [Forest] shares are positioned to outperform the [peer] group, in our view.”

Forest also announced a private offering of $300 million in notes due in 2020. Proceeds are to be used for the redemption of half of $600 million worth of higher interest notes due in 2014.