Shares for Houston, Texas-based Gastar Exploration Inc. (GST) were trading up to within striking distance of their 52-week high in the early half of Friday’s session, after word got out that Wunderlich Capital had initiated coverage on on the stock with a “buy” rating and a price target of $9.
An intraday high of $6.68 was established shortly after 10 am on heavy trading, before the buying activity evened out and the stock settled at around $6.50 per share, as this is the first attention Gastar has received from analysts since December 2013. But a lot has been going on since that time, as the company in February reported that the year prior saw an 81 percent increase in its proven reserves.
This is especially significant because the unconventional independent oil and gas producer operates primarily in Marcellus acreage in West Virginia. Those operations were briefly interrupted early last month as a result of a pipeline rupture which has now been at least partially fixed. Gastar also has a great deal of drilling left to do in its Marcellus acreage, with at least 150 or so undrilled potential locations left for it to work at.
But the company isn’t hanging its hat on gas alone. Indeed, in June of 2013, it acquired nearly 200,000 net acres in Oklahoma’s Hunton Limestone conventional oil play from Chesapeake Energy ($CHK), where its objective “is to develop a low-cost, repeatable horizontal drilling program in the conventional oil-bearing Hunton formation” (according to the company’s website).
At the level of reserves and production, then, there’s certainly a decent possibility for Gastar’s stock to do some more climbing. Investors will want to keep their eyes peeled for next Wednesday’s financial results for the first quarter as the next potential catalyst, with the average of analysts’ estimates for earnings per share at about $0.04, after Q4 of 2013’s losses of $0.06 (the result, according to the company, of “non-recurring corporate restructuring charges”).
Gastar wasn’t punished too harshly for the previous quarter’s losses, in any event, and while shares have shed around 10 percent of their price so far this year, the stock is up nearly 150 percent in the last 12 months, and is still undervalued relative to the market, trading at just shy of 9 times earnings (the broader independent oil and gas industry trades at an average of nearly 22 times earnings).
Midway through the session, shares for the $389 million company were up by 3.3 percent to $6.50 a piece.
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