(Compares with estimates, adds details on capex, FCF)
By Arundhati Sarkar
Feb 22 (Reuters) - Cabot Oil and Gas Corp missed Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit on Friday, as transportation costs capped its gains from higher gas prices and the company cut its 2019 capital expenditure.
Expenses related to transporting and gathering natural gas for the Marcellus-focussed company rose nearly 18 percent in the quarter to $140.9 million.
Companies like Cabot, which sells natural gas to industrial customers and power generation facilities, have been trying to increase production from the Marcellus area. The company said it would focus more on developing the Lower Marcellus region.
Sales price of Cabot’s natural gas, including the impact of derivatives, jumped 43 percent in the quarter to $3.11 per thousand cubic feet.
However, the company lowered its 2019 capital spending to $800 million from a prior forecast of $800 million to $850 million and forecast a 20 percent growth in production.
The Houston, Texas-based company said total natural gas production, which makes the bulk of its revenue, rose to 206.3 billon cubic feet (bcf) in the fourth quarter from 164.4 bcf a year earlier.
It expects first-quarter 2019 production in the range of 2,250 to 2,275 million cubic feet equivalent per day.
Brokerage Williams Capital Group reaffirmed “hold” rating on the company’s stock despite production growth and capex missing its expectations on the back of company’s ability to generate free cash flow and higher yield for natural gas.
Cabot’s fourth-quarter free cash flow was $241.4 million, compared with $28.7 million a year earlier.
“Our free cash flow for the fourth-quarter exceeded our initial forecast of $200 million, driven by stronger than anticipated price realizations,” said Dan Dinges, Chief Executive Officer, in a statement.
The company’s net income was $275 million, or 64 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31. On an adjusted basis, it earned 55 cents per share, but missed the average analyst estimate of 58 cents.
Operating revenue rose 79 percent to $716.3 million.
Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Arun Koyyur