Devon Energy Asset Disposition Plan Should Bode Well For Shareholders

Devon Energy (DVN), a leading oil and gas exploration and production company, announced yesterday an asset disposition strategy for 2010 that appears to be very accretive for equity holders should it be completed as planned. Devon announced that it plans to sell its Gulf of Mexico and international operations next year in order to focus on North American onshore energy properties. The sales are expected to bring in between $4.5 and $7.5 billion on an after-tax basis.

Devon’s stock rose $3 to $71 on the news as investors realized that Devon simply had too many properties to explore given its finite financial resources. By selling non-core assets and using the proceeds to focus on their strongest properties, Devon should be able to operate in the most efficient and shareholder friendly way.

A deeper look at the numbers shows a very attractive proposition for stockholders. Devon believes it can reap $6 billion from their gulf and international assets, which represents about 20% of the company’s current equity market value of ~$30 billion. These same assets only represent 7% of the firm’s energy reserves and 11% of current production. Since energy production companies are largely valued by investors based on reserves, selling these assets appears to be a very smart move for Devon. Clearly Wall Street is undervaluing these assets if indeed Devon can get $6 billion for only 7% of the company’s reserve base.

In addition, Devon will see its exploration expenses drop meaningfully after shedding these non-core assets. These non-core assets currently account for 29% of Devon’s annual capital expenditures. So, not only is Devon trying to unload assets that are undervaluing the company, but they are also the company’s most expensive assets to develop.

To recap, Devon currently spends 29% of its capital budget to develop only 7% of their reserves and it believes it can sell those assets for 20% of its current equity market value. This looks like a no-brainer for Devon and its shareholders.

As previously mentioned, Wall Street applauded the move, sending Devon shares up $3 to $71 after this strategic announcement. Since I am not fan of buying stocks after a big move up, now might not be the best time to scoop up the stock, but if it drops back to $65 or lower I will likely take a hard look at it based on recent developments.

Full Disclosure: Peridot Capital had a position in Devon at the time of writing, but positions may change at any time