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EOG Resources, Inc. (NYSE:EOG) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

EOG Resources, Inc. (NYSE:EOG) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 23, 2024

EOG Resources, Inc. isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here).

Operator: Good day, everyone, and welcome to EOG Resources Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2023 Earnings Results Conference Call. As a reminder, this call is being recorded. At this time for opening remarks and introductions, I would like to turn the call over to the Investor Relations Vice President of EOG Resources, Mr. Pearce Hammond. Please go ahead, sir.

Pearce Hammond: Thank you, and good morning, and thanks for joining us for the EOG Resources fourth quarter 2023 earnings conference call. I'm Pearce Hammond, Vice President, Investor Relations. An updated investor presentation has been posted to the Investor Relations section of our website, and we will reference certain slides during today's discussion. A replay of today's call will be available on our website beginning later today. As a reminder, this conference call includes forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those and our forward-looking statements have been outlined in the earnings release, and EOG's SEC filings. This conference call may also contains certain historical and forward-looking non-GAAP financial measures.

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Definitions and reconciliation schedules for these non-GAAP measures and related discussion can be found on EOG's website. In addition, some of the reserve estimates on this conference call may include estimated potential reserves, as well as estimated resource potential not necessarily calculated in accordance with the SEC's reserve reporting guidelines. Participating on the call this morning are Ezra Yacob, Chairman and CEO; Billy Helms, President; Jeff Leitzel, Chief Operating Officer, Ann Janssen, Chief Financial Officer, and Lance Terveen, Senior Vice President, Marketing. Here's Ezra.

Ezra Yacob: Thanks, Pearce. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us. Our outstanding performance last year demonstrates that EOG's value proposition delivers results. We beat our volume targets and reached a production milestone, exiting the year producing more than 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. We earned adjusted net income of $6.8 billion for a return on capital employed of 31%. We generated $5.1 billion of free cash flow and returned more than 85% of that free cash flow to shareholders last year, handily outpacing our cash return commitment. Our regular dividend remains the anchor of our cash return strategy. We increased it 10% last year to an annualized rate of $3.64 per share, which represents among the highest regular dividend yields of our peers and is competitive with the broader market.

2023 was a year of record production and outstanding financial performance, and it's not a one-off year. The real power of EOG's value proposition is consistency. Over the last three years, since the start of 2021, EOG has generated about $20 billion of adjusted net income, over $18 billion of free cash flow, and returned over $12 billion to shareholders. EOG delivers reliable operating results that translate to consistent financial performance year after year through the cycle. And that's EOG's value proposition, sustainable value creation through industry cycles. Our strategy to deliver on that value proposition starts first with capital discipline, a returns-focused capital allocation strategy guided by our premium hurdle rate, which requires investments to earn at least 30% direct after tax return at $40 oil and $2.50 natural gas.

Capital discipline allows EOG to consistently achieve its free cash flow priorities and deliver on shareholder return commitments, positioning EOG as a compelling investment competitive with the S&P 500. The second principle of our strategy to deliver on our value proposition is operational execution. Our multi-basin organic growth portfolio is a competitive advantage. We have superior in-house technical expertise that supports leading-edge well performance while minimizing well costs. Our proprietary information technology enables real-time data-driven decision-making. We actively avoid falling into manufacturing mode where one well design is stamped out across a basin. Rather, we adhere to the discipline of continuous improvement such that the latest learnings get embedded into the next well and transferred to the next basin.

Integrated into our operations is our focus on sustainability, the third leg of our strategy to deliver EOG's value proposition. Last year was a banner year with respect to our environmental performance. In addition to maintaining GHG and methane emissions intensity rates below our 2025 targets, we also achieved zero routine flaring throughout our operations. We achieved a wellhead gas capture rate of 99.9% and in the Delaware basin, our most active operational area, we increased water reuse to 90%. The final leg and foundation of our value proposition is EOG's culture. Our employees embrace and embody EOG's unique culture and are the number one reason for EOG's success. Collaborative multidisciplinary teams drive innovation and sustain the cycle of continuous improvement and our technology leadership.

Our company is decentralized and non-bureaucratic to allow decision-making in the field at the asset level, which truly differentiates EOG relative to our peers and is a lasting competitive advantage. This culture is what drove our successful results in 2023 and provides the foundation to continue to deliver in the future. Ann is up next to discuss our cash return strategy and preview the details of our 2024 capital plan. Here's Ann.

Ann Janssen: Thanks, Ezra. This morning, I'd like to review EOG's cash return strategy. A growing sustainable regular dividend remains the foundation of our cash return commitment, which is now a minimum of 70% of our annual free cash flow. We believe the regular dividend is the best indicator of a company's confidence in its future performance. It's a commitment to our shareholders based on our ability to continue to lower our cost structure and sustainably expand future free cash flow generation. Since we began trading as an independent company in 1999, we have delivered a sustainable growing regular dividend. It has never been cut or suspended and its 25-year compound annual growth rate is 21%. Last year, we announced an increase in our regular dividend of 10%.

In fact, we have increased our regular dividend by at least 10% each year for the last seven years. The indicated annual rate is now $3.64 per share, which currently represents about a 3.2% regular dividend yield, among the highest in our E&P peer group. In addition to our regular dividend, we paid $2.50 per share in special dividends in 2023 and took advantage of increased market volatility to opportunistically repurchase shares. We bought back approximately 1 billion of our shares at an average price of $112 per share, repurchasing nearly 9 million shares. Since putting the $5 billion repurchase authorization in place over two years ago, the fundamental strength of our business has improved and we continue to get better through consistent execution of and commitment to EOG's value proposition.

Last year, we also further strengthened our balance sheet by retiring $1.25 billion of debt. At year-end 2023, we had $5.3 billion in cash on the balance sheet, $3.8 billion in long-term debt, and over $7 billion of liquidity. We view a strong balance sheet as a competitive advantage in a cyclical industry. Our balance sheet is among the strongest in the energy sector and ranks near the top 10% in the S&P 500. Between our $1.9 billion of regular dividends, $1.5 billion of special dividends, $1 billion of buybacks, and retiring $1.25 billion of debt, 100% of EOG's 2023 free cash flow of $5.1 billion is accounted for. With a financial profile more competitive than ever with the broader market, EOG has never been better positioned to generate significant long-term shareholder value.

This quarter, we included a three-year scenario on slide five of our investor presentation to illustrate our ability to create future shareholder value. We assumed a macro environment, commodity prices, and production growth comparable to the last few years for production that's low single-digit oil growth and high single-digit BOE growth per year. In the current environment, this pace of activity has delivered exceptional results, and we expect to deliver more of the same. Using a $65 to $85 oil price range and a $3.25 natural gas price through 2026, we would expect to generate between $12 billion and $22 billion in cumulative free cash flow and an average return on capital employed of 20% to 30%. At the midpoint, the scenario estimates $17 billion in cumulative free cash flow, which represents about one-quarter of EOG's current enterprise value.

We believe this three-year scenario highlights an extremely competitive shareholder return profile not only among energy companies, but also with the S&P 500. Turning more immediately to 2024, we forecast another year of strong operational and financial performance. We expect our $6.2 billion capital plan to grow oil volumes by 3% and total production on a BOE basis by 7%. At just $45 WTI, our plan breaks even. At $75 WTI and $250 Henry Hub, we expect to generate about $4.8 billion of free cash flow and produce an ROCE of greater than 20%. Based on our target of returning at least 70% of free cash flow, that implies a minimum return to shareholders of $3.4 billion this year. Now, here's Billy to review 2023 operating results and proved reserves.

Lloyd Helms: Thanks, Ann. 2023 proved to be another exceptional year of performance, and I would like to thank each of our employees for their accomplishments and execution last year. For the full year, we delivered oil production above the original guidance midpoint set at the beginning of the year, while capital spending was at the midpoint. Overall, we were able to grow our oil volumes by 3% and our total production by 8% year-over-year. In the fourth quarter, we achieved a significant milestone, crossing the 1 million barrel of oil equivalent per day level of total production. EOG has been able to nearly double production over the last 10 years through our high return organic growth approach. Last year, our cross-functional teams worked to drive efficiency gains throughout our multi-basin portfolio.

An oil rig in action in a vast desert, drilling for natural gas.
An oil rig in action in a vast desert, drilling for natural gas.

For drilling operations, our EOG motor program continues to reduce downtime with our 2023 program yielding about a 15% improvement in footage drilled per rig. For completions, we continue to expand our super zipper operations across our multi-basin portfolio, reduce frac fleet move times, and decrease stage pump times due to increased horsepower for frac fleet. This improved our completed footage per frac fleet by about 7% in 2023. And we expect to continue seeing the benefit of those gains throughout 2024, which Jeff will run through shortly. Our production teams work to optimize production and expenses, reducing our cash operating costs to $10.33 per BOE. In addition, our facility and operating personnel continue to reduce our methane emissions while commissioning our first CCS injection well.

Our approved reserve base increased by 260 million barrels of oil equivalent last year, and now totals nearly 4.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent. This represents a 6% increase in reserves year-over-year, and proved reserve replacement of 202%, excluding price-related revisions, with a finding and development cost of just $7.20 per barrel of oil equivalent. Now here's Jeff to discuss operations and the 2024 plan.

Jeffrey Leitzell: Thanks, Billy. For our 2024 plan, we forecast a $6.2 billion CapEx program to deliver 3% oil volume growth and 7% total production growth. We expect to see some deflation throughout the year, and our forecasting well cost to be down a low single-digit percentage compared to last year. The primary drivers are a 10% to 15% reduction in tubulars and ancillary service costs. Our plan reflects increased investment in long-term strategic infrastructure in the Delaware Basin and Dorado, which are expected to reduce operating costs and expand margins for the life of these assets. These projects are highlighted on slide seven of our presentation, and Lance will discuss them in greater detail in a moment. I'd like to highlight that our year-over-year direct capital efficiency is improving, which is illustrated in our capital program breakdown on slide six of our earnings presentation.

In addition to the operational improvements Billy mentioned, our company-wide average treated lateral length per well is increasing by 10% in 2024. These improved efficiencies and longer laterals have resulted in a decrease in the number of drilling rigs by four, frac fleets by two, and our net wells by 40 compared to last year. The ability to grow our volumes year-over-year for less direct CapEx is a testament to the improved well performance and operational efficiency gains we are realizing across our operating area. When looking at our activity in 2024, EOG remains focused on progressing each one of our plays at a measured pace that allows us to capture and implement valuable learnings while realizing consistent improvement. In our foundational plays, specifically the Delaware Basin and the Eagle Ford, our teams are executing at a high level, and we expect to maintain consistent activity compared to 2023.

For Dorado, we remain excited about this 21 TCF resource potential asset and the role it will play in meeting growing global natural gas demand. Throughout last year, our team made good progress on improving operational efficiencies and recoveries. For 2024, we expect to moderate activity compared to 2023. A balanced approach to our investment in Dorado will allow us to maintain consistent operations to advance and improve the play while continuing to remain flexible as we monitor the natural gas market. In the Utica play, our technical and operations teams continue to make great progress. Our latest three-well Xavier package delivered initial 30-day average production of 3,250 barrel of oil equivalent per day with 55% oil and 75% liquids. The Xavier wells were drilled at 800-foot spacing, which is tighter than the Timberwolf package at 1,000-foot spacing.

We are pleased that all of our package wells to date have come online at production levels exceeding results from our initial individual test wells. For 2024, we expect to increase our activity level to one full rig, continue to test well spacing, and delineate our acreage across the play. Our next four-well package, named White Rhino, is located in the southern part of the Utica, and we expect these wells to come online in the first half of the year. In the Powder River Basin, our team has continued to improve well productivity in the Mowry Formation. We have observed double-digit increases in oil and BOE productivity per well due to improved targeting and our consistent package development. Moving into 2024, we expect to moderate activity levels, and along with Mowry development, will begin testing packages in the shallower Niobrara Formation in our primary development area.

I would like to thank our employees for their hard work and dedication that has positioned the company for another outstanding year. We are excited about executing our 2024 plan. EOG remains focused on running the business for the long-term, generating high returns through disciplined growth, operational execution, and investing in projects that will lower the future cost bases of the company. Now here's Lance to discuss infrastructure.

Lance Terveen: Thanks, Jeff. Infrastructure investments have been an essential element of EOG's marketing strategy to maintain transportation flexibility out of a basin, diversification of in-sales markets, and control from wellhead to sales point for flow assurance and to maximize margins. More recently, we have invested in two new strategic infrastructure assets to lower the long-term cost bases of the company and enhance margins. In the Delaware Basin, we are constructing the Janus natural gas processing plant, a 300 million cubic feet per day facility, along with gathering pipelines up to 24 inches in diameter. This new plant and gathering system is expected to provide material savings over the life of our Delaware Basin asset and reliability and flow assurance in the most active oil play in the U.S. We expect Janus will go into service in the first half of next year and deliver cost savings and revenue uplift of about $0.50 per MCF.

While we enjoy great relationships with our third-party midstream providers, this new EOG-owned plant adds optionality consistent with our marketing strategy. The Delaware Basin is our largest asset by throughput volumes, and early high utilizations at our Janus plant provides for an anticipated 20% plus rate of return. In our emerging South Texas Dorado play, we're constructing Phase 2 of the Verde 36-inch natural gas pipeline. We have taken a very disciplined approach to build out Verde commensurate with expansion of U.S. Gulf Coast demand. We placed Phase 1, which terminates in Freer, Texas, in service last year. And once Phase 2 is fully in service later this year, the Verde pipeline will extend to Agua Dulce, where we will have a premier position along the Gulf Coast with pipeline connections to reach multiple demand centers, including LNG facilities and additional local and Mexico markets.

We continue to see consistent well results in Dorado, and this new strategic investment supports lower future breakevens in a volatile natural gas market. We're extremely pleased with the progress we're making with these strategic infrastructure investments, which we expect will lower the cost basis of the company, provide substantial savings versus other alternatives, and increase operational control. In addition to strategic infrastructure, we continue to be a first mover in marketing our domestic natural gas to diverse indexes. We recently finalized a sale and purchase agreement for 140,000 MMBtu per day of our natural gas index to Brent, and another 40,000 MMBtu per day index to Brent, or a U.S. Gulf Coast gas index, beginning in January of 2027.

Adding a Brent-linked agreement with start date certainty further expands EOG's pricing exposure to international natural gas markets and growing LNG demand. EOG is executing on its marketing strategy to diversify our access to customers across multiple end markets for our growing production of reliable and affordable natural gas. Now here's Ezra to wrap up.

Ezra Yacob: Thanks, Lance. EOG's business has never been better, and our financial position has never been stronger. Our 2023 operational and financial results were not a one-time event. Rather, the results reflect our value proposition at work. Capital discipline, operational execution, leadership, and sustainability, and a unique culture are at the core of our success and will continue to deliver consistent shareholder value, and it continues in 2024. We are investing across our multi-basin portfolio with a focus on optimizing both near and long-term free cash flow generation and delivering high returns, while staying flexible with respect to supply and demand fundamentals of both oil and natural gas. Our disciplined approach to premium oil investment, commitment to organic exploration, and strategic infrastructure investments drive our low breakevens and through-cycle value creation.

And you can see this discipline delivering consistent results across our three-year scenario. Our confidence in EOG's ability to compete across sectors, create value for our shareholders and be a part of the long-term energy solution has never been higher. Thanks for listening. Now we'll go to Q&A.

Operator: Thank you. [Operator Instructions] And our first question comes from Leo Mariani of ROTH MKM. Please go ahead.

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