UPDATE 3-Apache plans to sell $4 bln in assets by year-end
* To buy back 30 million shares, or about 7.5 percent of outstanding stock
* Says pursuing joint venture partnerships
* Adjusted earnings per share $2.02 vs estimate $2.21
* Shares rise nearly 5 percent (Adds background, conference call comments)
By Swetha Gopinath
May 9 (Reuters) - U.S. oil and gas company Apache Corp on Thursday said it plans to sell $4 billion in assets, using proceeds to shore up its balance sheet and share price through debt reduction and a big share buy-back.
Disappointing production and investor concern over Apache's high exposure to Egypt - which accounted for 20 percent of its output in 2012 - have pressured the company's stock. So far this year, the stock is down about 1 percent compared with a 9 percent gain in the SIG oil exploration and production index
Investors and analysts liked Apache's plan, sending shares up nearly 5 percent in midday New York Stock Exchange trading.
"We applaud the move to repurchase very cheap equity while simultaneously focusing the company by removing some non-core assets," analysts at Simmons & Co said in a note to clients. Continued...