MDU Resources Group reports Q1 earnings of $42.8 million

MDU Resources Group on April 30 reported first quarter consolidated earnings of $35.6 million, or 19 cents per common share, compared to $42.8 million, or 23 cents per common share for the first quarter of 2011. First quarter 2011 earnings include the effect of an approximate $4 million benefit related to the favorable resolution of certain tax matters.

“We achieved the upper range of our guidance for the quarter, even though we experienced some weather and pricing challenges,” said Terry D. Hildestad, president and chief executive officer of MDU Resources, said in a press release. “That is a good indication of the strength of our diversified business and a solid base on which to continue building our estimated $3.7 billion capital growth program over the next five years.

“Our exploration and production business is well on the way toward its 2012 target of increasing oil production by 20 percent to 30 percent over last year,” he said in the press releasse. “Led primarily by growth at Fidelity’s Bakken operations, overall oil production increased to approximately 10,500 barrels per day in the first quarter, a 19 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.”

Fidelity currently is operating 10 rigs, eight more than a year ago. Five are working in the Bakken, where the company holds approximately 124,000 net leasehold acres, including an additional 27,000 Richland County acres that were acquired earlier in the first quarter. The company plans to invest nearly 40 percent of its $400 million capital budget in its Bakken acreage this year.

Hildestad said that Fidelity is seeing some improvement in Bakken wellhead oil pricing spreads compared to WTI prices. The price spread widened in March and negatively affected first quarter earnings but narrowed in April, and forecasts indicate continued improvement throughout 2012. Fidelity also was affected by average realized natural gas prices that were 32 percent lower than the first quarter of 2011.

“In addition, we are excited about the recently announced significant appraisal well results in the Paradox Basin where we own 75,000 net leasehold acres,” Hildestad said. “The potential of this play appears substantial. The Cane Creek Unit No. 26-2H well was tested at a stabilized rate of 647 barrels of oil per day and 561 thousand cubic feet of natural gas per day following two weeks of production. These results are based on a significantly restricted flow allowing our team to properly manage production operations, gather performance data and minimize natural gas flaring.”