UPDATE 3-Apache plans to sell $4 bln in assets by year-end

Thu May 9, 2013 1:33pm EDT
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* 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...