Apache Has Standout First Quarter

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Apache, the largest U.S. independent oil and gas producer, said its first-quarter profit surged 58% to $1.1 billion, or $2.86 per share, compared with $705 million, or $2.08 per share, a year earlier as production climbed 25%. On an adjusted-basis, Houston based Apache earned $2.90 a share while analysts were expecting $2.59.

Despite civil unrest in Egypt, Apache (APA), the Western oil company with the largest footprint in the North African country, said overall output rose to 732,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the quarter. The company cited the 2010 acquisition of Mariner Energy as one catalyst behind the increased production.

Revenue for the quarter was $3.9 billion, slightly ahead of the $3.7 billion Wall Street was expecting. Apache's shares were hit in February as violence escalated in Egypt, but the stock has rebounded since then and is up more than 10% in the past three months compared to a gain of about 6% for the S&P 500.

Ticonderoga Securities reiterated a ''buy'' rating on Apache today with a $145 price target. The research firm said it continues to view Apache as one of the strongest names in the group and noted the company is still forecasting 2011 production growth of 13-17%.