Noble Energy Inc. (>> Noble Energy, Inc.) swung to a fourth-quarter loss amid $620 million in asset writedowns and negative hedging impacts, though the oil and gas explorer's revenue continued to benefit from higher average realized oil and natural-gas prices.
Noble estimated its 2012 capital spending plans at $3.5 billion, with 51% allocated to U.S. onshore projects, 22% to the Eastern Mediterranean, 14% to West Africa and 7% to deepwater projects in the Gulf of Mexico. Allocations also include China and the North Sea.
Production is expected to increase between 244,000 and 256,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Nearly all of the projected growth is in crude oil and condensate, which is expected to increase 40%. The company expects production in the current quarter to remain mostly unchanged from fourth-quarter levels.
Noble Energy in November said it plans to gradually increase its capital spending to $5 billion a year in 2016 from the $3 billion anticipated for 2011.
Noble Energy in December announced a major natural-gas discovery the waters near Cyprus, building on a string of recent successes in the area known as the greater Levant basin. The company and its partners have made several discoveries in the basin, which is off the coasts of Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Syria--which could help make the area a major natural-gas exporter.
Noble reported a loss of $296 million, or $1.67 a share, from a year-earlier profit of $52 million, or 29 cents a share. Excluding the writedown, derivatives impacts and other items, earnings were up at $1.18 and $1.04. Revenue increased 26% to $985 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently projected earnings of $1.17 on revenue of $965 million.
Production from Houston-based Noble Energy, which has core operations are in the U.S., West Africa and Israel, grew 6.4% to 233 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
The latest period was expected to include production from Noble's Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale joint venture with Consol Energy Inc. (>> CONSOL Energy Inc.). The company's $3.4 billion deal for a 50% stake in Consol's Marcellus shale field closed in October, giving it a foothold in one of the world's most prolific natural-gas regions.
Shares closed Wednesday at $104.36 and were inactive premarket. The stock is up about 17% in the past year.
-By Tess Stynes, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2481; Tess.Stynes@dowjones.com