Pioneer Rises on Forecast Beat, More Drilling: Dallas Mover

Pioneer Natural Resources Co., the second-biggest oil producer in the Permian Basin of Texas, rose after first-quarter profit beat forecasts and the company accelerated drilling plans in what it estimates may be the biggest crude find in U.S. history.

Pioneer, based in Irving, Texas, increased 6.2 percent to $126.31 at the close in New York. Earlier the shares rose 7.5 percent, the biggest intraday gain since Nov. 10, 2011. The shares have gained 19 percent this year.

First-quarter profit excluding a decline in the value of forward contracts was 5 cents better than the average of 34 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The company is accelerating drilling faster than planned in the eastern half of the Permian Basin, known as the Midland Basin, after determining deposits there may yield 50 billion barrels of oil, making it the biggest U.S. oil discovery ever, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott Sheffield said on a call with investors and analysts today.

“They’re the best-positioned company in the Midland Basin,” Leo Mariani, an Austin, Texas-based analyst for RBC Capital Markets, said today in a telephone interview. “Costs are under control and these guys are executing on their plan.”

Mariani rates Pioneer a buy and owns no shares.

Production Rises

First-quarter production was equivalent to 171,000 barrels of oil a day, beating a forecast for as much as 170,000 barrels, according to a statement released yesterday after markets closed.

Pioneer’s estimate for recoverable oil and gas from the Midland basin is nearly double that for the Eagle Ford Shale in southern Texas, and nearly four times larger than for Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, Sheffield said on today’s call.

Pioneer’s leases cover 900,000 acres of deposits known as the Spraberry and Wolfcamp that it considers most prospective, according to the statement. Occidental Petroleum Corp. is the largest oil producer in the Permian, according to the Texas Railroad Commission.

Pioneer is ramping up drilling in the southern Midland Basin under a $500 million joint venture with Sinochem Group, China’s biggest supplier of chemicals, that is scheduled to close in June. The deal calls for Sinochem to pay $1.2 billion of Pioneer’s future drilling costs. Rig count will rise from seven to 10 next year.

Promising well results 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the north of the joint venture area triggered plans to add four horizontal drilling rigs in that area this month, Sheffield said. He reiterated a $2.75 billion 2013 drilling budget.

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