Noble Energy Announces Third Quarter 2004 Results



Noble Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NBL) reported third quarter net income of $83.7 million, or $1.43 per basic share, compared to $35.1 million, or 62 cents per share, for the same period last year. Third quarter 2004 net income increased 138 percent compared to the same period last year. Discretionary cash flow (see Determination of Discretionary Cash Flow and Reconciliation schedule) for the third quarter 2004 increased 23 percent to $189.1 million, compared to $153.2 million for the same period last year. Net cash provided by operating activities was $152.6 million for the third quarter of 2004.

On a continuing basis, the company reported net income of $81.0 million, $1.38 per share. Discontinued operations reported net income of $2.7 million, or five cents per share.

Charles D. Davidson, the company's Chairman, President and CEO, said, "Noble Energy continues to show improvement in every facet of our business. The company's successful long-term strategy of creating value through aggressive organic growth is beginning to have a substantial impact on our operations and financial performance. Overall production increased 17 percent compared to the third quarter last year. The increase in production drove our strong earnings and cash flow growth. Of course, the continuing strong commodity price environment also added to our improved financial results. Domestic operations continued its recent trend of improved performance with production increasing compared to last year, despite the impact of Hurricane Ivan. Likewise, our international operations experienced dramatic increases in production and earnings. And finally, overall unit costs declined significantly compared to last year."

The increase in reported net income and discretionary cash flow versus the third quarter last year primarily reflected higher production volumes and higher realized commodity prices. Realized natural gas prices for the third quarter 2004 were $4.51 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf), ten percent above last year's $4.10 per Mcf. Realized crude oil prices were $35.62 per barrel (Bbl), an increase of 30 percent compared to $27.46 per Bbl for the third quarter 2003. Realized methanol prices were 74 cents per gallon (Gal) for the third quarter 2004, an increase of 17 percent over 63 cents per Gal for the same period last year.

Compared to the third quarter 2003, overall production from continuing operations for the third quarter 2004 increased 17 percent to 104,467 barrels of oil equivalent per day (Boepd) from 89,287 Boepd. Domestic operations had a production increase of three percent, reflecting new domestic crude oil production from the Roaring Fork field (South Timbalier 315/316) in the Gulf of Mexico. Had it not been for shut in production as a result of Hurricane Ivan, which lowered Noble Energy's production by approximately 2,900 Boepd during the third quarter, domestic production would have shown an eight percent increase over the same period last year. International volumes increased 44 percent compared to the third quarter 2003, primarily because of increased volumes resulting from the continued ramp ups of natural gas sales in Israel and condensate production from Phase 2A in Equatorial Guinea.

Third quarter 2004 production volumes from continuing operations decreased four percent compared to 109,096 Boepd for the second quarter. The 4,600 Boepd decline in third quarter production compared to the second quarter was primarily due to Hurricane Ivan and the natural decline of production in the shallow Gulf of Mexico. International production increased two percent over the second quarter, primarily because of the continuing ramp up of natural gas and condensate volumes in Israel and Equatorial Guinea, respectively.

Total cash and non-cash unit costs, comprised of lease operating expense, production taxes, transportation expense, selling, general and administrative expense (SG&A), and depreciation, depletion and amortization (DD&A) declined $1.52 per barrel of oil equivalent (BOE), or 10 percent, compared to the third quarter last year.

Oil and gas operations expenses (lease operating plus production taxes) from continuing operations for the three months ending September 30, 2004 were $4.56 per BOE compared to $4.48 per BOE for the same period last year. The quarter-on-quarter increase in per BOE oil and gas operating costs was due to several factors, including increased production taxes resulting from higher natural gas and crude oil prices, increased workover activity, lower production in Ecuador, and higher service costs. Increased low cost volumes from Israel and Equatorial Guinea partially offset higher operations expenses.

Reported DD&A decreased to $7.91 per BOE, compared to $9.36 per BOE in the third quarter of 2003. The decrease was primarily due to increased low-cost volumes in Equatorial Guinea and Israel. Domestic and North Sea DD&A rates declined significantly. Domestic DD&A declined to $10.59 per BOE from $11.69 per BOE for the third quarter last year. Third quarter 2004 DD&A in the North Sea declined to $5.70 per BOE compared to $8.78 per BOE last year because of increased reserves booked at the end of 2003, primarily on the Hanze field.

SG&A expenses for the third quarter were $1.39 per BOE compared to $1.52 per BOE for the third quarter of 2003. The decrease reflects higher overall production.

For the first nine months of 2004, net income was $241.3 million, or $4.15 per share, compared to net income of $99.0 million, or $1.74 per share, last year. Discretionary cash flow for the first three quarters of 2004 was $615.9 million compared to $481.6 million for the same period last year. The year-on-year increase in net income and discretionary cash flow resulted from higher production volumes and commodity prices.

DOMESTIC OPERATIONS
Continuing domestic operations reported operating income for the third quarter of $75.7 million, an increase of 127 percent compared to $33.4 million for the same period last year.

Domestic operations benefited from higher realized prices for crude oil and natural gas during the quarter, which increased 17 percent and 25 percent, respectively, compared to the third quarter of 2003. The average domestic realized crude oil price was $30.85 per Bbl compared to $26.43 per Bbl during the third quarter of 2003. The average domestic realized natural gas price was $5.89 per Mcf compared to $4.70 per Mcf last year.

DD&A decreased $4.4 million compared to the third quarter of 2003, despite the three percent production increase. On a unit basis, DD&A decreased nine percent to $10.59 per BOE compared to $11.69 per BOE in the third quarter of 2003. Reduced DD&A primarily reflects increasing production from lower unit rate onshore properties, combined with declining production from higher unit rate offshore properties.

Noble Energy's domestic onshore operations were active during the first three quarters of 2004, drilling 88 exploration and development wells with 73 successes. The company plans to drill a total of 142 onshore wells in 2004, of which 36 are scheduled for the Gulf Coast area and 106 are scheduled for the Mid-continent and Rocky Mountain regions.

During the first nine months of 2004, the company completed a successful 40-acre infill pilot program in the Niobrara shallow natural gas trend of northeast Colorado and northwest Kansas. Based on the success of this test, Noble Energy has identified over 200 infill locations that could be drilled in 2005.

During the third quarter, the company continued to make progress on three large deepwater developments:

  • Swordfish (Viosca Knoll 917, 961 and 962) -- well completions have been finished, with production expected to commence from three wells in the second quarter of 2005 at an initial rate of 10,000 Boepd, net. Noble Energy has a 60 percent working interest in Swordfish.
  • Lorien (Green Canyon 199) -- an appraisal well is currently underway, with production expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2005 at an initial rate of 12,000 Boepd, net. Noble Energy has a 60 percent working interest in Lorien.
  • Ticonderoga (Green Canyon 768 #1) -- successful exploration results were announced in April, with production expected to commence in the third quarter of 2006 at an initial rate of 12,000 Boepd, net. Noble Energy has a 50 percent working interest in Ticonderoga.


  • INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS
    International operations reported operating income for the third quarter of $75.7 million, a 160 percent increase compared to $29.1 million in the third quarter last year. Third quarter 2004 international production volumes increased 44 percent to 44,583 Boepd from 30,935 Boepd for the same quarter last year.

    The quarter-on-quarter increase in international operating income reflects increased production and higher commodity prices. Realized crude prices for international operations increased 43 percent for the third quarter of 2004 compared to last year. The average international realized crude oil price was $40.32 per Bbl compared to $28.29 per Bbl during the third quarter of 2003. The average international realized natural gas price, excluding Ecuador production that is eliminated as inter-company sales, was $1.99 per Mcf, a 93 percent increase compared to $1.03 per Mcf last year. The increase in realized international natural gas prices was primarily due to new natural gas sales in Israel.

    Reflecting increased low cost production volumes, third quarter 2004 DD&A declined to $3.97 per BOE from $4.72 per BOE for the same period last year. Lease operating expense, production taxes and transportation expense decreased to $4.88 per BOE from $5.23 per BOE, also as a result of increased low cost production.

    Equatorial Guinea
    Total operating income in Equatorial Guinea, which includes results from field operations and methanol, for the third quarter of 2004 more than doubled to $37.6 million compared to $17.9 million last year.

    Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas and condensate sales accounted for $24.0 million, or 64 percent, of operating income from Equatorial Guinea. Third quarter 2004 production volumes averaged 16,134 Boepd, a 37 percent increase over last year. The average realized price for liquids during the third quarter 2004 was $41.00 per Bbl compared to $27.10 per Bbl for the same period last year. Natural gas was sold to the methanol operations at a price of 25 cents per MMBTU.

    Operating income from methanol operations was $13.6 million net to Noble Energy's interest. Methanol operations' results are reported as income from unconsolidated subsidiaries. Third quarter realized methanol prices averaged 74 cents per Gal compared to 63 cents per Gal last year. The company's share of methanol sales volumes was 33.5 million Gal, an increase of 18 percent compared to 28.4 million Gal for the third quarter of 2003.

    In September, the company announced that it had acquired an interest in a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) with the Republic of Equatorial Guinea covering Block "I" offshore Bioko Island. To date, one 3-D seismic survey has been shot on the block. Under the terms of the PSC, Noble Energy will be the Technical Operator with a 40 percent working interest.

    In April, the company announced that it had signed a PSC with the Republic of Equatorial Guinea covering Block "O" offshore Bioko Island. To date, two 3-D seismic surveys have been shot on the block. Noble Energy and its partners have agreed to drill two exploration wells within the first exploration period of three years, with planning underway for the first well to spud in 2005. Under the terms of the PSC, Noble Energy will be the Technical Operator with a 45 percent working interest.

    Israel
    Third quarter operating income was $14.2 million. Lease operating expense averaged 32 cents per Mcf, and DD&A averaged 46 cents per Mcf. Operating income included $1.2 million of other revenue, representing an effective royalty reduction to compensate Noble Energy for processing and transportation costs.

    Natural gas production, net to Noble Energy, averaged 71.6 million cubic feet per day (MMcfpd) for the third quarter. Natural gas sales volumes will be dependent upon seasonal demand, with fourth quarter volumes expected to decline from the third quarter as a result of reduced electricity demand. Ultimate gross production under the contract with the Israel Electric Corporation is planned to average 170 MMcfpd (70 MMcfpd net). Noble Energy has a 47 percent working interest in this project.

    North Sea
    In the North Sea, operating income for the third quarter of 2004 increased 60 percent to $15.0 million compared to $9.4 million last year, reflecting higher commodity prices. North Sea production for the third quarter of 2004 was 7,605 Boepd compared to 8,773 Boepd last year, reflecting natural field decline.

    Other International
    Other international, which includes operating results from Argentina, China and Ecuador, reported operating income of $8.9 million for the third quarter 2004, more than double the reported operating income of $3.5 million last year. The increase in operating income primarily reflects higher realized crude oil prices in China and Argentina and lower exploration expense.

    Noble Energy's Machala power plant had an operating loss of $1.1 million during the third quarter 2004 compared to break even for the same period last year. During the quarter, 97,291 megawatts (MW) were produced at an average sales price of 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour (Kwh). For the third quarter 2003, the company produced 184,470 MW at an average sales price of 7.0 cents per Kwh. For the third quarter 2004, Noble Energy produced 11.6 MMcfpd of natural gas from the Amistad field.

    The lower power production and natural gas in Ecuador are due to normal seasonal weather variation and extended summer maintenance during the third quarter. Maintenance on one turbine has taken longer than expected after inspections uncovered damage that required repair work in the United States. Fourth quarter 2004 power and natural gas production may also be effected by the extended repairs.

    In South Bohai Bay offshore China, production from the Cheng Dao Xi (CDX) field was 3,412 barrels of oil per day (Bopd) compared to 3,919 for the same period last year. The lower production was a result of downtime associated with safety requirements for the successful infill-drilling program currently underway and natural field decline. China had operating income of $5.6 million during the third quarter. Noble Energy has a 57 percent working interest in CDX.


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