Virtuous Vermillion Has Nowhere to Go But Up

Michael Teague  |

Shares for the Calgary-based oil and gas exploration and drilling company Vermillion Energy (VET) pressed upwards ahead of Wednesday’s closing bell, seemingly impervious to the selling that put a decisive end to what was shaping up to be a second day of gains for stocks following comments made by President Barack Obama on the unfolding situation in Eastern Ukraine.

Energy and materials stocks plunged into the red after the US President reassured an audience in Brussels, Belgium that while the West would not resort to military action in order to reverse Russia’s annexation this week of the Crimean Peninsula, economic sanctions would be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the Canadian upstream firm had a number of reasons to subtract itself from the broader rush for the exits. Wednesday’s session had already seen the company’s share price to a new all-time high of $62.76, the latest milestone on a slow but steady ascent that began more or less back in mid-2011.

The $6.23 billion market cap Vermillion acquires, develops and produces oil and natural gas throughout Australia and Europe, in particular France, Ireland and the Netherlands.

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For a company that has a reputation of being very deliberative in its purchases, the Canadian producer has made a number of them over the past two months, the most recent being the incredible deal it scored on March 18 in a choice area of the Williston Basin underlying Southeast Saskatchewan, and including portions of the formidable Bakken Shale that is usually approached from the other side of the border in North Dakota. The company made the purchase from an unnamed private entity for a total of $400 million, $345 million of which was in cash and share considerations, and an additional $55 million in debt.

For this relatively modest sum, Vermillion is looking at some 57,000 acres of land, the majority of it untouched, and that is expected to produce some 3,750 barrels of oil equivalent per day, almost all of it crude, in 2014 alone.

The announcement follows an impressive fourth-quarter and full year earnings report earlier in the month that saw impressive production and reserve growth, and followed on acquisitions in Germany and Norway at the end of 2013.

But perhaps the main driver of the stock ahead of Wednesday’s was tomorrow’s monthly ex-dividend date in the amount of $0.215 to be paid on April 15. The company is different from most of its upstream brethren in that it manages all at once to return money to shareholders on a monthly basis, maintain a strong balance sheet, and reinvest capital into more production, a strategy it calls “value driven”.

To top it off with a cherry, Vermillion received France’s Industrial and Regional Ecology Award last December that recognized the company’s commitment to sustainability. Shares were up 2.70 percent ahead of Wednesday’s closing bell, to $62.50 a piece.

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