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Devon Energy Completes Transformation With Linn Energy Deal

Tickers in this article: DVN ENLK HES LINE LNCO MRO OXY

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Devon Energy's transformation into a pure-play onshore oil and gas driller is complete, with the company's $2.3 billion sale of non-core assets to upstream master limited partnership (MLP) Linn Energy . Devon Energy, unlike peers such as Occidental Petroleum , Marathon Oil & Gas and Hess , was able to affect its turnaround under CEO John Richels without the hand of a vocal activist investor.

On Monday, Devon Energy said its non-core asset sale consisted of properties in the Rockies, the onshore Gulf Coast and the Mid-Continent regions of the U.S. would raise $1.8 billion after taxes. In total, Devon has raised $5 billion in recent months from asset sales in the U.S. and Canada, and the spinoff of its EnLink Midstream business.

The asset sales do two things, both for the company and its investors. It rationalizes Devon Energy's operations, which had been discounted by investors amid production shortfalls and balance sheet troubles. They also are helping Devon Energy identify ways to grow its oil and liquids production volumes in coming years.

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In late 2013, Devon Energy agreed to buy GeoSouthern Energy, a driller focused on the Eagle Ford shale, for $6.3 billion in cash. Devon took on significant debt in that deal; however, with a heavy slate of asset sales and spinoffs in 2014, the company now expects to pare its net debt by $4 billion by year-end.

As initial production numbers come in on the GeoSouthern deal, analysts at both Bank of America and Wells Fargo now expect the acquisition to drive Devon Energy's stock.

Transformation Complete

Devon Energy's non-core asset sale to Linn Energy on Monday may perhaps be the company's most straightforward deal in recent memory. It also may prove a pivotal moment in Devon Energy's transformation, with the company stating on Monday it is now no longer in turnaround mode.

"With the sale of our remaining non-core assets, the portfolio transformation that we announced late last year is now complete," CEO Richels said in a Monday statement. ""In a short period of time we transformed our portfolio through three significant steps: the accretive Eagle Ford entry, the innovative creation of EnLink Midstream, and the sale of our non-core properties," he added.

Devon Energy once was among the largest independent drillers by revenue in the United States, with a portfolio tilted towards natural gas production and operations spanning onshore drilling fields, the offshore Gulf of Mexico and international operations in Canada and overseas. Now, the company is concentrated in onshore basins in North America, and has diversified away from natural gas.

On Monday, Devon Energy forecast nearly 60% of its production would come from liquids by year-end, and gave a forecast of oil production growth rates in excess of 20% in coming years.