Enerplus Reiterates 2012 Production Growth Outlook and Announces Reduction in Dividend
Comment of the Day

June 19 2012

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Enerplus Reiterates 2012 Production Growth Outlook and Announces Reduction in Dividend

This press release from Canadian and US listed Enerplus highlights the difficulties experienced by oil & gas producers during natural gas' decline over the last year. Here is a section:
We continue to pursue the monetization or joint venture of a portion of our strategic undeveloped land base. Over the past three years, we have amassed over 170,000 net acres of strategic land in the Montney and Duvernay as well as our operated acreage in the Marcellus that contains significant future drilling potential. Along with the sale of our equity portfolio, we expect that we could generate $250 - $500 million of proceeds over the next 12 - 18 months that will help fund our future growth strategies.

Despite our operational success year-to-date, commodity prices have weakened and resulted in lower forecast cash flows. While our balance sheet is currently strong and we have significant liquidity with respect to our credit capacity, we are reducing our monthly dividend from CDN$0.18 per share to CDN$0.09 per share. We believe this reduction will strike a better balance between yield and growth, allowing continued investment into our asset base in a more sustainable manner. We remain committed to a strategy that provides investors with a dividend and growth investment.

As stated, the new dividend amount of CDN$0.09 per share will be effective with the July payment and will not impact the dividend payable on June 20, 2012.

Eoin Treacy's view As the unconventional gas sector blossomed into a game changer for the energy sector companies felt compelled to buy up as much acreage as they could for fear that someone else might get to the prize first. The success of the sector has also been its undoing as prices more than halved over the last year and the economics of unconventional gas production were called into question given the new price structure.

Chesapeake has been perhaps the most notable victim of the natural gas' price decline as boardroom shenanigans came to light. The wisdom of BHP Billiton's rather expensive purchase of Petrohawk has also been called into question. Enerplus appears to have followed a similar strategy and as with just about all other companies with the ability, is now focusing on oil shale ventures until natural gas prices recover.

Natural gas posted its largest rally in more than a year from the April low which represented a truly depressed level. In the process it broke the progression of lower rally highs and closed the overextension relative to the 200-day MA. It pulled back rather sharply but posted a large upward dynamic last week to demonstrate demand returning at a progressively higher level for the first time in more than a year. Natural gas has now rallied back to the still declining 200-day MA. A sustained move above $2.75 would represent a higher high and add further weight to the bottoming hypothesis.

After halving its dividend Enerplus now yields 8.52%. I suspect most investors will be curious as to whether the June 12 th cut is the last or the first of a series. If natural gas is in fact bottoming then that should give some support to future cash flows. The share continues to trend lower and while it is becoming increasingly overextended relative to the 200-day MA the potential for at least a reversionary rally is increasing.

Encana has held a progression of incrementally higher reaction lows since January and posted a new six-month high yesterday. A sustained move below $18.60 would now be required to question medium-term scope for additional upside.

Elsewhere in the oil & gas sector Apache Corp, Anadarko Petroleum, Nexen, Rex Energy, and Canadian Natural Resources all pulled back to test their respective 2011 lows and found at least near-term support. Sustained moves below these recent lows would be required to question potential for an additional unwind of their oversold conditions.

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