Mad Money

Why Is Ultra Petro Lagging?

Regular Mad Money viewers by now should be able to recite Cramer’s case for natural gas by memory: It’s a cleaner fossil fuel, the US has tons of it, and its mass adoption would create much-needed jobs in the States. He sees the commodity’s enormous potential, and he has recommended a number of stocks to play it. But Ultra Petroleum seems to be lagging the rest.

Natural Born Profits?

UPL is up just 15% since CEO Michael Watford last appeared on the show, on Aug. 26. And while the stock has soared 70% since the market’s early March lows, sector peers like Anadarko Petroleum , Apache and Chesapeake Energy have reached into triple-digit percentages.

Still, Ultra Petroleum returned as much as 14,564% in the 10 years between Dec. 31, 1999, and the end of 2009, while the S&P 500 fell 24% over the same period. That’s why Cramer’s sticking with it. But he did want to check in with Watford to find out why the stock to slow down.

Cramer likes UPL for a number of reasons. First of all industry giants Exxon Mobil and Total recently made moves into natural gas, confirming the Mad Money host’s theory that this was the fossil fuel of the future. Given that 95% of Ultra’s reserves are nat gas, the company could benefit as M&A activity in the sector picks up.

Also, Ultra Petroleum controls an average working interest of 50% across the Pinedale Anticline in Wyoming. Admittedly there were some drilling delays and higher costs due to federal conservation policy, but the business there is doing better. Especially now that Rocky Mountain gas, once very cheap, is just 11 cents below that sold on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The third reason that Cramer is so bullish on UPL is its move into the Marcellus Shale, a key nat-gas drilling area located throughout Western Pennsylvania and much of the Appalachian Basin. The company is buying another 80,000 acres there, bringing its total holdings to 250,000 acres. This is important, Cramer said, because UPL’s Marcellus exposure is barely reflected in the stock’s price even though it adds about $17 a share of net asset value. And Exxon bought XTO Energy XTO no doubt in part for its Mercellus business.

In the end, Ultra Petroleum is a low-cost producer with strong production growth. Even if the company’s per-unit costs were doubled, Ultra would still sit in the midpoint of its exploration-and-production peers’ cost range. As for production, that grew by a more than healthy 27% in the third quarter.

“That makes it a growth stock with fabulous margins,” Cramer said UPL.

But does he still recommend UPL after talking to CEO Watford? Watch the video to find out.

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