Analysts warm to Apache’s Alpine High

John Christmann IV, chief executive officer of Apache Corp., speaks during an interview at the company’s headquarters in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. (Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg)

Analysts may be slowly changing their tunes on Apache Corp.’s giant Alpine High discovery, after a skeptical first few months.

Apache announced the Permian Basin find in September, worth an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil and gas, and many analysts were immediately leery.

But Apache released new well results last week, showing improved oil production – and the early completion of a section of its natural gas pipeline, meaning the Houston company can begin shipping gas to market.

RELATED: Apache posts profit, improved Alpine High well results

And, by week’s end, analysts were declaring “outperform,” urging consumers to buy.

Houston investment bankers Tudor Pickering Holt called Apache quarterly results “solid,” and applauded the company for its progress at Alpine High.

Florida financial services firm Raymond James lauded Apache’s first quarter earnings and Alpine High’s potential, calling the company a “free cash flow machine.”

“We reiterate our Outperform rating and $60 target,” analysts there said.

Still, not all have turned bullish on Apache.

Paul Sankey at Wolfe Research continued to criticize the play, noting that it does not have the characteristics of the prolific Permian — oodles of pipelines and way more oil than gas. Instead, Apache has to build its own pipelines at Alpine High and get through a lot of gas to find the oil.

Moreover, Sankey didn’t feel like Apache executives were willing to answer all of the questions from analysts and investors.

“There is,” Sankey wrote in a recent note, “a sense of almost hostility between investors/analysts who doubt the attractiveness of the play, and the company, which is resolute about the value of what they have discovered & are developing.”