EQT Makes $1.5B in ’17; Drilling Fewer Wells in ’18; Tax Cut Helps

Yesterday the biggest natural gas producing company in the U.S., EQT, released its fourth quarter and full year 2017 update. As we pointed out in our lead story today, the 800-pound gorilla in the room was talk about an impending announcement to split EQT into two companies (see EQT Big Announcement Coming Within 2 Wks to Split Co. in Two). However, there was plenty of other news coming out of the 2017 update and accompanying analyst phone call. Of course the big news for EQT in 2017 was closing on the deal to buy Rice Energy (see EQT Buys Rice Energy in $8.2B Deal, Becomes #1 Gas Producer in US). Sadly, about half of Rice’s employees were fired as a result. EQT kept 275 out of the roughly 500 employees employed at Rice at the time of the merger. EQT reported a net income of $1.5 billion in 2017, which is up from a loss of $453 million in 2016 (a nearly $2 billion swing in one year!). Contrary to the naysayers, the Trump tax cut is having a huge impact on shale companies (on everyone, actually). EQT will be $1.2 billion richer this year due to “deferred tax liability”–taxes it expected to pay at the old rate of 35% rather than at the new rate of 21%. That’s money not going into the black hole of Washington politicians’ hands but instead getting reinvested right here in the Marcellus/Utica. In 2017, EQT picked up an *additional* 110,000 acres in the West Virginia Marcellus/Utica region–and that’s without including the acreage picked up in the Rice Energy deal. How about some hard numbers for drilling? In 2017, EQT drilled 144 Marcellus wells, 49 Upper Devonian wells, and 4 Utica wells (197 wells drilled, total). In 2018 they plan to drill 134 Marcellus wells, 16 Upper Devonian wells, and 25 Utica wells (175 total). So, their drilling program will slightly decrease, and they will drill less Marcellus/UD wells and more Utica wells. EQT also issued an announcement about proved reserves–the amount of gas (and equivalents) in the ground, under their leased acreage, that they could extract using today’s technology at today’s prices. EQT reports total proved reserves at the end of 2017 were a stupendously high 21.4 trillion cubic feet equivalent of natural gas–59% higher than 2016. Below are the announcements issued yesterday from EQT, along with the latest PowerPoint slide deck and excerpts from the analyst phone call…

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