St. Mary Land and Exploration (NYSE: SM) is an independent oil and natural gas company that explores for and produces oil and natural gas from land reserves in North America. St. Mary looks to focus on maximizing production from existing properties, shielding itself from risk by acquiring oil and gas properties that complement the company's existing operations rather than exploring new, high-risk areas. St. Mary devotes more of its resources to developing its properties than any of its competitors, who have larger exploration budgets but are less focused on improving existing assets. St. Mary uses the capital it saves on exploration to hire teams of geologists, geophysicists and engineers with local expertise to focus on improving production in the locations where it has valuable reserves.
Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, St. Mary conducts operations in 5 key areas within the United States: The Rocky Mountains, ArkLaTex (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas), the Mid-Continent, the Permian Basin and the Gulf of Mexico. St. Mary's production revenues have grown in each of the past three years due to the increase in oil and gas prices, and its proven reserves have grown as well thanks to key low-cost acquisitions. Over the past 5 years SM has increased its oil and gas production by nearly 10% per year.
High oil and gas prices coupled with a focus on development of existing properties have enabled St. Mary to generate impressive returns on invested capital over the past several years. St. Mary is achieving upwards of 90% success rates in some of its fields, namely the Gulf Coast and Permian Basin regions. Overall, highly productive areas such as the natural-gas fields in the Hanging Woman Basin in Wyoming and Montana, helped drive up earnings nearly 60% in 2005 to $739.6 million. However, increased operation costs have accompanied St. Mary's production growth, hurting its margins on the balance sheet.
The company has also been able to increase its total production by 10% each year due to its efficient development of and continued investment in promising acquisitions such as the Sweetie Peck acquisition in the Permian Basin. In the future St. Mary could encounter problems with government regulations and environmental restrictions because a portion of the company's developed acreage is on federal land in the Hanging Woman Basin. The Hanging Woman Basin is a promising new acquisition that St. Mary is counting on for long-term growth.
St. Mary encounters competition with a number of independent oil and gas companies with interests in the same regions where St. Mary owns properties and conducts operations. St. Mary competes for new and promising acquisitions with larger companies with greater resources that could potentially threaten St. Mary if they are able to muscle St. Mary out of lucrative acquisition opportunities. St. Mary's focus on onshore North America development may limit growth in the near future as some of its top competitors are beginning to develop growing interests in deepwater oil exploration.
Below is a table comparing several independent oil & gas companies across several metrics.
|Proved Reserves||Square Footage|
|Revenue TTM ($M)||Operating Margin||Production (MMcfe/Day)||Oil (MMBbls)||Natural Gas (Bcf)||LNG (MMBbls)||Gross developed acreage (in thou)||Gross undeveloped acreage||Gross Total|
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