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Continental Slashes 2020 Capex by 55%, Output to Decline 5%

Zacks Equity Research

Continental Resources, Inc. CLR recently announced that it has revised downward its 2020 capital budget in the wake of a weak crude pricing scenario.

The company reduced its 2020 capital budget guidance to $1.2 billion, indicating a 55% decline from its original guidance of $2.65 billion, which was flat with 2019 levels. With oil price now in the bearish territory since the coronavirus pandemic is hurting global energy demand, the outlook for exploration and production business seems gloomy. Thus, upstream energy players are restricting their operational activities and thereby reducing capital budget.

The company plans to decrease its average rig count to around 4 in Oklahoma from 10.5 and about 3 in the Bakken Shale from 9. Continental expects production for 2020 to go down by 5% from 2019 level. Last year, the company produced 197,991 barrels of oil per day and 854,424 thousand cubic feet of gas per day. It is depending on the cost saving efforts for strengthening the bottom line.

The company expects to be cash flow neutral for 2020 if WTI Crude price remains below $30 per barrel. In comparison, it anticipated to generate free cash flow within $350-$400 million earlier, assuming WTI crude price at $55 per barrel. The previous guidance itself implied a significant fall from the 2019 level of $608.4 million.

With the capex reduction move, Continental enters the bracket of other energy players including Pioneer Natural Resources Company PXD, Apache Corporation APA and Cimarex Energy Co. XEC. These companies intend to navigate through this tough phase while sustaining a solid financial footing and strong operational efficiency. Strikingly, fortifying the companies’ capital position at a time when oil prices are unprofitable for most producers, is touted to be a prudent strategy. Notably, there are only 16 companies in the U.S. shale plays operating in fields wherein average new well costs are lower than $35 per barrel, per Rystad Energy.

Price Performance

Shares of this Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) company have lost 73.4% year to date compared with 65.6% decline of the industry it belongs to. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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