Noble Energy profits boom in fourth quarter

Noble Energy showed strong profits and booming revenue, demonstrating that its focus on high-performance plays is paying off.

The independent exploration and production company reported a profit of $251 million, or $1.39 a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $296 million, or $1.67 a share.

The strong quarter ends a successful year for Noble Energy, which has benefited from its move into natural gas liquids and oil in a range of international plays, including the Denver-Julesburg Basin in Colorado and in West Africa.

Noble Energy reported net income of $1 billion for 2012, or $5.71 per share diluted, compared to net income of $453 million, or $2.54 per share diluted, for 2011.

Noble has concentrated its North America strategy on key plays including the Denver-Julesburg Basin in Colorado, where it reported fourth-quarter daily production of 86,000 barrels of oil equivalent, and the Marcellus shale in the Northeast, where it produced 121 million cubic feet equivalent per day.

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The Houston-based independent oil and gas company said it plans to invest more than $1.7 billion to further accelerate its horizontal drilling program in the Denver-Julesburg Basin.

“This is a program that continues to deliver more positives every day,” said Noble Energy CEO Charles Davidson during the earnings call, explaining that the company plans to add another 300 to 500 wells during the next couple of years.

The focus comes, as the company has focused on selling lower producing assets and targeting higher-return areas, including the U.S. and offshore projects in the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, and West Africa.

“We are continuing to clean up the portfolio,” Davidson said, noting that the company is reassessing assets in places like China and selling in areas it does not consider as core to its strategy. “We are matching up the right buyer for the right assets. We put a lot of value on focusing on our core area of businesses.”

Davidson said the company also plans to sell additional U.S. assets, but did not specify the exact locations.

“We still have a little bit more to do in the US,” Davidson said. “It has been a successful program but a there are a couple more packages in the US that we still need to clean up.”

The company has recently discovered a new reservoir in Carla in the Equatorial Guinea and has several deep-water natural gas discoveries in the Leviathan Basin in Israel, where it is continuing to expand its presence.

The Leviathan field is estimated to contain 17 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.