Noble Energy (NBL) may be poised to pop now that Israel has approved a deal that allows the country to develop and export its offshore natural gas resources.
Noble seeks energy assets globally and discovered natural gas potential in Israel as early as 2009 in the Leviathan region, which is just off the Isreali coast, in 2010. Noble invested nearly $2.4 billion to develop natural gas resources in Israel. It also launched a campaign touting the benefits of natural gas to Israel's economy.
While the potential was there, Noble wasn't always able to benefit from it. In March, Israel's Supreme Court blocked a deal that would have allowed Noble to develop its projects there on antitrust concerns. The deal would have granted price and regulatory stability to Noble and other players in the area for 10 years, which could prevent other entrants. Noble has been waging a battle against the Israeli government for some time. Those who oppose the deal say too much gas would be sent out of the country and that it offers Israel non-competitive pricing, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Representatives from Noble Energy did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
On Sunday an amended deal was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which removed some of the language concerning price and regulatory stability. As a result of the approval, which could still be challenged by Israel's Supreme Court, an analyst team at Barclays made Noble its "top pick," replacing Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ), and raised its price target on Noble by 24% to $41. Barclays also maintained its Overweight rating on the company. Shares of Noble recently traded around $36.
Although there is much exuberance among analysts and investors about the potential for Noble increasing its operations in Israel, there are still hints of caution.
"A partial stability clause is only one bullish piece of progress, and not the final, Court-approved solution necessary to drive project sanctioning, it is an important step that shows interested parties are back at the table, committed to finding a reasonable solution," Tim Revzan of Sterne Agee CRT wrote in a report Wednesday. Due in part to the decision, Sterne Agee raised its rating on Noble to Buy from Neutral.
Still, while Noble awaits the final word, it is still moving forward and management optimistically said on a call this week that it could be three years to get gas from the region from the time it starts its projects.
"My sense is we'll hit the market at a very good time," CFO Ken Fisher said.