Market Overview

Pioneer Natural Resources Earnings Preview

Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE: PXD) is scheduled to report fourth-quarter 2011 results February 6, after the markets close. The independent oil and gas exploration and production company has seen net income rise in three straight quarters, as well as revenue that has risen for two straight quarters. And Pioneer Natural just announced that it added proved reserves totaling 148 million barrels oil equivalent during 2011.

Analysts are looking for the company to report that its per-share earnings more than doubled from a year ago to $1.03 for the quarter and that revenue totaled $693.6 million. That would be a year-over-year revenue increase of 47.0%. Note that the EPS estimate has risen from $0.88 some 60 days ago. And Pioneer Natural's per-share earnings have topped consensus estimates in all but one of the past eight quarters.

Looking back to the third quarter, Pioneer Natural's profit rose more than threefold to $351.5 million, or $2.95 a share, from the year earlier, topping analyst expectations. Revenue rose 29.5% to $610.5 million. The company attributed results to an 8% increase in production over the previous quarter, driven primarily by its Spraberry field, Eagle Ford Shale and the Barnett Shale Combo assets.

For the full year, the consensus estimate call for $3.79 per share earnings, an increase of 53.3% from the previous year. That EPS estimate was $3.61 just 60 days ago. And full-year revenues are expected to have increased 35.7% year over year to $2.5 billion.

The Company

This Irving, Tex.-based company engages in the exploration and production of oil and gas in the United States, South Africa and Tunisia. Pioneer Natural is pursuing several emerging resource plays in the lower 48 states, and it was the first independent to produce oil on Alaska's North Slope with its Oooguruk project. The company was founded in 1997 and now is an S&P 500 component with a market cap of $12.5 billion.

Competitors include Apache (NYSE: APA), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) and Cimarex Energy (NYSE: XEC). Apache will post fourth-quarter results on February 16 and is expected to say EPS rose 22.9% and revenue increased 25.2%. The other two also report later in the month but their fourth-quarter earnings are predicted to have declined.

See also: Credit Suisse Initiates Outperform, $120 Target on Apache.

During the three months that ended in December, Pioneer Natural announced a public offering of 5.5 million shares of its common stock to, among other things, expand its drilling program in the horizontal Wolfcamp Shale play in West Texas. It also made a public offering of 4.4 million units of its Pioneer Southwest Energy Partners (NYSE: PSE).

Performance

Pioneer Natural has a long-term earnings per share growth forecast of 14.0%. Its PEG ratio is higher than the industry average, and so is its operating margin. It has a dividend yield of 0.1%. Short interest is 7.0% of the float. Of 29 analysts surveyed who follow the stock, 22 rate it a Buy or Strong Buy; none recommend selling. Their mean price target on the shares is 11.9% higher than the current share price.

Shares are trading near the 52-week high after rising more than 14% year to date. The share price is well above the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. The 52-week range is $58.63 and $106.07. The stock has easily outperformed Apache, Chesapeake Energy and Cimarex Energy, as well as the broader markets, over the past six months.

See also: Top 4 Large-Cap Stocks in the Independent Oil and Gas Industry with the Highest Operating Margins.

ACTION ITEMS:

Bullish: Investors interested in exchange traded funds invested in Pioneer Natural Resources might want to consider the following trades:

  • SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production (NYSE: XOE) is almost 49% higher than the 52-week low.
  • iShares Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Index (NYSE: IEO) is more than 42% higher than the 52-week low.
  • First Trust Energy AlphaDEX (NYSE: FXN) is more than 36% higher than the 52-week low.
  • Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSE: XLE) is more than 34% higher than the 52-week low.
Bearish:

Traders may prefer to consider these alternative positions in the same industry:

  • Clayton Williams Energy (NASDAQ: CWEI) is up about 145% from the 52-week low.
  • Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR) is up almost 87% from the 52-week low.
  • Provident Energy (NYSE: PVX) is up about 75% from the 52-week low.
Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.

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