Oxy Gaining Status as 'Takeover Target,' Profile Says

As California's largest natural gas producer with a big bet on domestic oil/gas supplies, Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum has turned the corner financially with rapidly rising profits and stock prices, making it one of the top names on the energy industry's acquisition target lists, according to a profile in the Sunday business section of the Los Angeles Times. The price for the company is growing, with its 70-year-old CEO Ray Irani telling the LA Times it could reach $40 billion.

With its current market value at $30 billion, Occidental followed a 73% profit jump last year to $2.6 billion, with a 74% jump in earnings for the first quarter this year ($846 million). In addition, more recently Oxy has won rights to develop Oman's largest new oil field; it stands to gain on the sale of refiner Premcor Inc. to Valero Energy Corp. since it owns 10% of Premcor, and it has acquired several additional Permian Basin fields.

"There's no question in my mind that Occidental is an attractive package," Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit was quoted in the Times' profile.

An advocate of applying cutting-edge technologies in its exploration and production, Occidental has been credited with upping production at the former national strategic oil reserve at Elk Hills, northwest of Bakersfield, CA, to 235 million equivalent barrels, while expanding Elk Hills total proven reserves to 462 million barrels, compared with 425 million barrels when it bought the field from the federal government seven years ago.

A combination of 3-D seismic surveying and the injection of water, carbon dioxide and acid to stimulate output has helped Oxy drill 1,200 new wells in Elk Hills. Overall, last year, Occidental's production of oil and natural gas averaged the equivalent of 566,000 b/d, an increase of 3.5%, while its reserves also climbed 2.5%, the Times report said.

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