February 20, 2018 / 12:56 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Noble Energy profit beats estimates on cost cuts, rising oil prices

(Adds details of forecast, opening stock movement)

Feb 20 (Reuters) - U.S. oil and gas producer Noble Energy Inc reported adjusted quarterly profit on Tuesday that easily beat analyst estimates due to cost cuts and higher crude prices, sending shares surging more than 7 percent in morning trading.

The results came as Noble’s U.S. shale oil production jumped in the fourth quarter through Dec. 31, reflecting the greater attention the industry is giving to improving profit and output.

Houston-based Noble plans to spend $2.8 billion each year through 2020, about 6 percent more than it spent in 2017.

Much of that will go towards projects in its red-hot U.S. shale portfolio, where better technology should help Noble pump 30 percent more oil this year than in 2017, even as it spends less per well, the company said.

Noble posted quarterly net income of $494 million, or $1.01 per share, compared with a loss of $252 million, or 59 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Noble earned 32 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected 4 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“The results delivered in 2017 provide significant momentum as we enter 2018 and deliver growing value for shareholders,” Chief Executive David Stover said in a statement.

If oil prices stay at or above $50 per barrel, Noble said it could generate $1.5 billion in extra cash flow in total through 2020.

A rise in global crude prices, led by OPEC cuts, has prompted oil and gas companies to ramp up production. U.S. crude prices averaged $55.30 per barrel in the last quarter of 2017, up 12.2 percent from a year earlier.

Noble’s total operating expenses nearly halved to $740 million in the quarter, as exploration costs sank 90 percent.

Total sales volumes from U.S. onshore rose 40.5 percent to 104,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, and prices realized per barrel rose by $7.14.

Noble’s total revenue surged 19 percent to $1.2 billion.

Shares jumped 7 percent to $28.15 in morning trading as oil prices fell.

On Monday, Noble, along with its operating partner Delek Drilling signed a 10-year agreement to sell $15 billion worth of Israeli natural gas to Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings.

Last month, Noble sold a 7.5 percent stake in the Tamar natural gas field offshore Israel to Tamar Petroleum Ltd for about $800 million in cash and shares, to comply with government plans to open the market to competition. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston and Ahmed Farhatha in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Bernadette Baum)

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