“The Most Undervalued Oil Company in the World”

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, March 5, 2009

That may well be damning with faint praise — saying that you’ve got the most undervalued oil company these days is not all that much better than saying you’ve picked the highest-dividend subprime lender, it’s a sector that many folks don’t want to touch.

But we continue to burn oil — I drive pretty much exactly the same distance every day as I did when oil was at $147 a barrel, though I must admit that I appreciate the lower gas station bills. Gas consumption certainly goes down a bit when unemployment goes up, or when prices spike, but with a growing world of hydrocarbon consumers it’s not going to go away in short order. I don’t know if gas will next see $15 a barrel or $100 a barrel as we add or lose more marginal consumers, but it seems foolish to assume that it will remain cheap forever.

Bob Czeschin goes a bit further — he thinks that you should subscribe to his Oil & Energy Investment Report, and in return he’ll tell you all about this most undervalued oil company, and why you should buy it.

Or you could just read on a bit more, I’m sure we can figger this one out.

Here’s his big picture argument:

“Yes, everyone knows oil consumption has been falling because of the recession. But what they don’t realize is that oil production is now falling 7 times faster.

So a sharp rebound in oil prices is right around the corner. Meanwhile, battered oil shares are still at their lowest level in a generation, and that spells opportunity.”

So if oil production is falling as fields that require $80 oil are shut down, what’s an investor to do? Buy the stocks with big reserves and lower extraction costs, perhaps?

He goes on to talk about production declines in Iran and Venezuela and Mexico, project cuts in Saudi Arabia and in the Canadian oil sands, and he mentions that Russian officials think production declines will bring a price spike of at least 50%. Of course, that would be pretty good news for Russia, so one takes it with a bit of a grain of salt, but still…

Czeschin tells us that falling oil production “is the ticking time bomb in the oil market. It’s why, despite the recession, it’s only a matter of time before shrinking supplies send oil prices rising sharply again.”

He lists several oil companies that look much cheaper these days than they did a year ago, including most of the names that roll off anyone’s tongue like ExxonMobil, PetroChina, Suncor, ConocoPhilips and the like.

And he goes on:

“Recently, some of these companies have become incredible bargains. My #1 choice is the company I think is …. The most undervalued oil company in the world. When you buy shares in Chevron-Texaco, you get proven oil reserves at about $30.71 a barrel.

“With Royal Dutch Shell, it’s about $31.21 a barrel … and with Exxon, it’s about $35.13 a barrel.

“By contrast, when you buy shares in this company that I’m talking about, you get proven oil reserves at
about $1.89 a barrel.

“The reason why this company’s stock is so undervalued is that it’s located out of the way, in Asia’s “Rim of Fire.” The Rim of Fire is the crescent of Eastern Asia, which is home to the world’s strongest economies today.”

Then we get to some more details… or as I like to call them, “clues.” This company has …

“Far and away the largest oil reserves … more oil in the ground than Chevron-Texaco and Royal Dutch
Shell combined

“6,090 service stations

“More oil production than the fabled oil-rich sheikdoms of Brunei, Bahrain, Yemen, and Dubai
combined

“9 huge refineries”

So … toss all those goodies in the Thinkolator and we find that this is …

Lukoil (LUKOY is the ticker for the official sponsored ADR)

LUKOY is currently trading for about $32.50, and with a market cap of just about $27 billion. If you use their January 2008 proven reserves numbers of 15.7 billion barrels of oil you do end up with something under $2 a barrel for their oil reserves, it’s actually closer to $1.75 at the moment (that doesn’t include their natural gas reserves, which would bring the barrel of oil equivalent up over 20 billion).

Of course, there’s at least one awfully good reason why Lukoil’s proven reserves are cheaper than those of most big oil companies — they are, after all, Russian. Lukoil is an independent oil company, it is not technically controlled by the government like Rosneft or Gazprom, but you have only to look at the good ‘ol Yukos saga from a few years ago to understand how gingerly Lukoil’s management must tread the line between building a multinational company and pleasing Vladimir Putin.

So far, according to this very uneducated Gumshoe, they seem to be getting along reasonably well — Prime Minister Medvedev even pushed a little bit for Lukoil’s investment in Spain’s Repsol just a couple days ago, reviving talks of a deal that most people had considered dead thanks to Spanish resistance to losing control of their biggest oil company.

Lukoil does have a massive network of 6,090 gas stations, mostly in Russia, Eastern Europe, and the US, and they do own a bunch of large refineries — I haven’t seen that they have precisely nine refineries, my count was seven, but they have invested significantly in refining capacity in recent years so I may be missing something.

This is a large Russian company that has been trying to become more international, with projects throughout the former Soviet states and in a few other spots around the world (Iran and Egypt among them) — but it is still driven primarily by its huge reserves in central Russia, mostly in Western Siberia. About half of their overall proven reserves are undeveloped, so there seems to be no reason, other than political risk or the cost of accessing those reserves, or the decline in the price of oil, that would cause concern. Of course, all of those reasons might be pretty good.

And the Pacific “Rim of Fire” bit? That’s probably more of a stretch, when most people talk about the rim (or ring) of fire they mean the volcanic activity that goes from Oceania through Southeast Asia and Japan and circles right around Kamchatka over to Alaska and down the left coast of the Americas. I guess Lukoil’s operations are reasonably close to Japan and Korea, both big gas and oil importers, but more of their product seems to be heading the other direction, to Europe.

Czeschin tells us that he thinks it’s inevitable that Lukoil’s reserves will eventually be valued at parity with the big Western oil companies, and that the shares should double or triple within the next 18 months, and that much more massive gains are possible for long term holders who buy it to hold for ten years or so — or that geopolitical crises, particularly in the Middle East, could break out that would ramp up oil prices again, and magnify that move upward.

I’ve written about Lukoil several times since 2007, it has been picked by Yiannis Mostrous for his Silk Road Investor newsletter, and by Eric Roseman for his Commodity Trend Alert. For the past couple years it has often come up as a favorite for risk-seeking value investors — it has always seemed cheap in comparison to its non-Russian competitors, and it has always had big reserves. The shares have collapsed anyway, though they have remained fairly stable over the last several months, since the initial crash of last fall.

And if you’re a bit Russia-averse, but still like the idea of a bit of exposure to Lukoil’s reserves, you could always look at ConocoPhillips (COP), which owns 20% of Lukoil. Of course, it’s only fair to tell you that Warren Buffett last week announced that buying a big chunk of COP was one of his biggest mistakes of 2008, but it’s certainly far cheaper now. Oh, and ConocoPhillips did have to write down its investment in Lukoil by more than $7 billion, so they may have some regrets, too. Both COP and LUKOY have trailing dividend yields of about 5%, by the way, though the dividend for 2009 is anyone’s guess.

So … ready to jump into Russia? Is it cheap enough to take a risk, or too risky to think it’s cheap? Is oil a good gamble at these prices, or just another commodity destined to continue deflating? Let us know what you think.

And of course, if you’ve ever subscribed to Czeschin’s newsletter please click here to let us know what you think. We’ve just breached the 300 review barrier on the Stock Gumshoe Reviews site, so we’re learning more and more about these newsletters as actual investors have experienced them — but we still need a lot more help building up this resource of newsletter reviews by investors, for investors … please visit the site and review any newsletters you’ve subscribed to today!


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37 Comments on "“The Most Undervalued Oil Company in the World”"

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Elissa Stein
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Elissa Stein
March 5, 2009 2:13 pm
I wouldn’t trust Putin and his gang with a penny. COP has been selling in the mid- $30’s. I’ve been nibbling at it, bought shares and simultaneously sold some 55 calls, bought some $30 puts, and sold the $25 puts. Long term, I think it will be a winner.In the meantime, it has a respectable dividend and cash. T Boone Pickens was interviewed this morning and said to expect crude to go to $60 before it falls below $40. He called $100 crude before everyone else, however, he’s got deeper pockets and can sustain the wild gyrations that the average… Read more »
Don
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Don
March 5, 2009 2:15 pm

Just wondering if any of you have heard of USO and what you think of that, I don’t know that it’s at today but it was at 27 and change yesterday…

ponce
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ponce
March 5, 2009 2:41 pm

I might go for Lukoil if Vlad the bad is not Russia’s top dog. I got burnt on Yukos. He sent the CEO to Siberia prison then orchestrated the break up of Yukos on the pretext that it owed taxes.

Gung Ho
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Gung Ho
March 5, 2009 3:32 pm

Vlad I am no fan was right what if GE’s CEO would sell the company to the ayatollahs or Kim Il Song. He woiuld heva been killed right away.Chodorkovski tried to sell/deliver Yukos to Dick Cheneys pals. Vlad is not stupid Russia today has more free markte that the US and was up until now one of the fewe counties in the world left where you could become a billionaire in 5/10 years

fsckr
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March 5, 2009 4:56 pm

With the Ruble being devalued vs Korea Won and Japan Yen, it would make sense that – since LUKOY’s costs are paid in Ruble (?) and their product is sold in Yen/Won – that the current state of affairs would be positive for them…

Kristian
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Kristian
March 5, 2009 4:56 pm

6000+ Lukeoil gas stations… I wonder what qualifies as a gas station in Russia. Whenever one of my cab drivers there needed gas he invariably found some little pump in some unimproved backyard.

harvey hooper
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March 5, 2009 4:57 pm

intersting

Dave Brice
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Dave Brice
March 5, 2009 5:49 pm
Ya, I remember that while traveling within Russia, not a gas station in sight like we know of, but, somehow, my driver would pull over off the road to some beaten old house from WW2 and there would be an old gas pump maned by one person, just out of the blue, there it is in someones back yard and at the same time, would open up a old shed and there would be the repair garage with all type of Lukoil products, just unreal, in the middle of nowhere really. Anyway, was able to get a Coke and a… Read more »
ponce
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ponce
March 5, 2009 7:01 pm

I would not trust any Russian company after I got burnt twice. First Yukos. The other company was a Lukoil subsidiary operating in Kazakhstan who owned a majority share in the company old ticker CHAR. The company at the time had a proven reserve that has the potential to be worth $80/share when wall street knows about it. When the Russian owned majority shares they changed management and Board and let that company go bust to a point that they could buy it all at fire sale. What a crook that was!

allen l smith
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allen l smith
March 5, 2009 7:39 pm

D Brice was that you in that old REO Truck in front of us. You bought yhr last of the Snickers,I had to settle for Cabbage Rolls at 4.00 usd ea. Thanks a lot…

Mark Francis
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Mark Francis
March 5, 2009 8:32 pm
The Obama administration recently went after the inventor of the onboard hydrogen fuel vehicle. They sell a kit that is easily installed & increases the fule economy of a Large SUV ot over 100mpg. The government employed “gestapo” like tactics and went to Federal Court (ex Parte) with an “expert ” who professed that current mass produced vehicles have a efficiency of over 90%. Althought the government “Froze” all bank accounts of this award winning compnay & inventor a subsequent Fed Judge immediately released the previous courts injunction. WHY ? Becuase it was pure nonsense & their are over 50,000… Read more »
mke
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mke
March 6, 2009 12:00 am

don’t know if you’ve gotten this one yet but Petershchiffs 5 favorites
http://www.europac.net/report/reports/report_fivefavorites.pdf
care to do some sluething gumshoe? 🙂

peik van waveren
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peik van waveren
March 6, 2009 1:40 pm

Chodorovsky was not the only one targeted by Putin, the others just “gave in” faster. I lost money with Lukos as well, and have been wondering for a long time when the turn around will happen. I can’t believe that Putin is just going to wait and see what happens without some game plan up his sleeve. Chavez? OPEC? China? Oh, and by the way, Obama’s just getting started!

markjr
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0
March 6, 2009 2:27 pm

Bob Czeschin has the WORST signal-to-noise ration in the entire newsletter universe.

If you sign up for his oil and energy newsletter you will receive 6 to 12 marketing sales letters via snail mail and at least one email a week trying to upsell you to his “premium” services before you get your first edition.

Then it’s all sales sales sales, newsletter, sales sales sales from then on in.

He basically runs a “pay for spam” operation.

Jim Morris
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Jim Morris
March 6, 2009 2:46 pm

Travis,

Good article. I, unlike some of your readers, was ignorant of Lukoil and it’s Russian master. Helps to understand more of the world’s players and relationships.

Jim

kirk whitehouse
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March 7, 2009 4:46 am
Dear DailyWealth Subscriber, If you are interested in buying gold, Dr. Steve Sjuggerud has found what might be the perfect investment. In short, it gives you ownership of real gold… and has a realistic shot at returning an incredible 10-times your money over the next few years, even if gold prices stay basically the same. Steve explains everything below… Good Investing, George Rayburn Publisher, DailyWealth ————————– U.S. Treasury “Gold Option” could pay 1,100% in next 2 Years This government-created gold investment is cheaper today than it was in 1986. And it’s one of the few safe investments in the world… Read more »
TV Guy
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TV Guy
March 7, 2009 1:49 pm

Kirk you ask (above): what are your thoughts on this ?

Here’s one: (no Two)
#1 what does this have to do with responses to this thread on Lukoil ??

#2 why are you pitching on this site ??????

Russian Hand
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Russian Hand
June 13, 2010 12:16 am
Rest of my Comment – Lukoil nas never followed this type of path. THe Kremlin has readily shown that it is prepared to tolerate Russian oligarchs and billionaires who tow the party line and don’t want to do anything beyond making money or who are willing to let their resource companies act as public policy instruments. As long as Lukoil plays along, they will prosper. As well, it needs to be remembered that back in 1998, oil was unde $20/bbl and Russia was virutally bankrupt. Russia went into the 2008 recession with hundreds of billlions of dollars of reserves. They… Read more »
Russian Hand
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Russian Hand
June 13, 2010 5:16 am
When it comes to Russia, the issue is not always ownershp. Lukoi, while privatrely owned, has always operated very close to the Kremlin and has far less ups and downs that most Russian oil companies (at least the private ones). The issue with Khordorovsky was not that he owned an oil company; he tried to act against the interests of the Kremlin in many ways. He talked about shipping oil directly to the U.S. and building a pipeline to China. Since oil and gas was and is Russia's greatest foreign policy instruments, the actions of Yukos directly challenged the Kremlin.… Read more »
Elissa Stein
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Elissa Stein
March 5, 2009 4:33 pm

The Russian economy is again in dire straits. What
s a ruble worth. It’s rubble.
I recall their default in the late 1990’s, do you? It can happen again. Putin’s been bailing out his billionaires. I’d like to know where you bought those rosie glasses, I’d like to get a pair, too.

ponce
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ponce
March 5, 2009 6:00 pm

Your comments would come only from a person with good humor. Yeah keep us entertained during this market crash. But I figured that if the government is willing to risk billions to beaten down financial companies, the gambler got the better of me and pick up some shares of Citi, AIG, LVS, etc.

adamnb
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adamnb
April 15, 2009 11:59 pm

The falling rouble is a major reason to buy Lukoil; you’re paying in dollars that are now up more than 27% on the rouble.

Elissa Stein
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Elissa Stein
March 6, 2009 5:44 am

I think #5 is Vitasoy International Holdings

spreadtrader
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spreadtrader
March 7, 2009 6:50 am

No need for Gumshoe to do his thing. The answers were posted Thursday in the forum.

http://oneguysinvestments.com/gumshoe/comments.php?DiscussionID=1906&page=1#Item_10

SageNot
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SageNot
March 6, 2009 3:39 pm

Yep, Bill Bonner taught Bobby Boy well, but Czeschin bolted Agora Publications, moved to Hong Kong & is now a global millionaire.

We shared a room in Fla for a Futures Magazine confrence while Bob was still with Agora, he was a deep thinker, humbled & then “who knew” as they say?

You got me scratching my noggin with that “Bob Czeschin has the WORST signal-to-noise ration in the entire newsletter universe.” Signal-to-noise is a new one for me.

TKS
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TKS
June 12, 2010 12:37 am

markjr is right on Bob Czeschin's stuff is mostly fluff, another name for BS

Gravity Switch
Admin
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March 7, 2009 4:58 pm
Thanks! I’ve written about two of the five as he teased them in his newsletter over the last few months (DUET and Skyworth, each of which seems to have plenty of hair on it), but hadn’t looked for the others yet. Peter Schiff has built himself quite a reputation (if he does say so himself) as a trend-predicter, and as getting a lot of the big picture right on the credit crisis, but I have no idea what record he might have as a stock picker — this is a motley list, will be interesting to see where they go.
spreadtrader
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spreadtrader
March 8, 2009 11:12 am

He admits he’s no stock picker….so forewarned is forearmed. I like some of his ideas, others I don’t. The charts tell me what to do……the stock pickers are mere entertainment.

stockcrazy10
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stockcrazy10
March 8, 2009 12:32 pm

kirk, StockGumshoe solved this one in October:
http://www.stockgumshoe.com/2008/10/treasurys-gold-glitch-make-money-after-gold-rises-sjuggerud.html

TV Guy, this site has become a magnet for pitches. They like us. They REALLY like us!

stockcrazy10
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stockcrazy10
March 8, 2009 12:32 pm

TV Guy, this site has become a magnet for pitches. They like us. They REALLY like us!

spreadtrader
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spreadtrader
March 8, 2009 1:58 pm

I’m buying USO for my kids’ college fund. Tuition is rumored to be going up another 9% next year. The state’s tenured bureaucrats, er, “faculty” have their entitlements too, you know. USO may double in a year.

Chris Grande
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March 9, 2009 6:36 pm
RE: USO it’s an ETN for 1 month oil – they basically roll oil futures contracts month to month. USL is 12 months oil – there was a big issue with the USO rolling month after month with future prices higher than current prices (contango) and as it rolled each month you paid higher prices for each contract and getting fewer contracts with your dollars. USL may be a smoother, less volatile option. Either way, this fund will generate a K1 for taxes so it may make sense to buy these types of things in your IRA (then you have… Read more »
Gung Ho
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Gung Ho
March 10, 2009 12:35 pm
Theres a global problem but just compare US indebtness with Russia today. Just remember that russians are not debt spoiled sofar and used and very flexible to changing circumstances. Russia still does have considerable financial reserves + owner of the major natural resources deposits worldwide and still is a manufacturing economy. If they will not import luxury items like SUVS which industry where worldwide will suffer first…look at whats happening in Motor city. Theres more free market in Russia today than US. These are plain facts if it stays that way I dont know. US is like Japan ZIRP now… Read more »
Gung Ho
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Gung Ho
March 11, 2009 12:01 pm

Theres quite some people claiming this is a scam!

http://cr4.globalspec.com/thread/17016/PICC-Pre-Ignition-Catalytic-Converter

adamnb
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adamnb
April 15, 2009 11:52 pm

It’s not a rant when you’re right.

adamnb
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adamnb
April 15, 2009 11:57 pm

more than 600 are on the east coast of the US, that Lukoil bought from Getty.

adamnb
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adamnb
April 16, 2009 12:27 am

only $19.95! and they throw in a potato peeler.

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