February 22, 2018 / 1:40 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-Apache's oil output forecast disappoints, shares drop

(Adds details on forecast, updates stock movement)

Feb 22 (Reuters) - U.S. shale oil producer Apache Corp forecast 2018 oil production that was below analyst estimates on Thursday, sparking concerns about the company's growth as crude prices rise, and sending its stock down more than 5 percent.

The drop in share price came even as Apache reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

Apache expects to pump about 459,000 barrels of oil equivalent this year, about 4 percent below Wall Street's estimates. The drop comes even as peers have ramped up output expectations, trying to take advantage of higher commodity prices.

Apache, though, has to develop pipelines and other infrastructure out of its Alpine High acreage in the Permian Basin, a relatively undeveloped part of the largest U.S. oilfield. The infrastructure development delays Apache's ability to tap its best acreage for now.

John Christmann, chief executive, told Reuters in December that the Permian and Alpine High were "the engine behind our North American operations," but acknowledged much needed to be done to develop the holdings.

The company said on Thursday it would spend 70 percent of its $3 billion capital budget for this year on drilling wells in the Permian, which is at the heart of the U.S. shale boom. About $500 million of that will be spend on pipelines through Alpine High.

Apache plans a call with investors to discuss the forecast and quarterly results later on Thursday.

Apache said it managed to keep a tight grip on costs in the fourth quarter, partly helping it swing to net attributable income of $456 million from a loss of $182 million a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 33 per share, beating analysts' average estimate by 11 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Oil volumes in the Permian region surged more than 10 percent in the quarter, the company said. However, overall North America volumes dropped due to the sale of Apache's Canadian assets in July.

The Houston-based company said average realized oil prices jumped 23 percent to $58.36 per barrel. An OPEC-led production cut lifted global oil prices by nearly 18 percent in 2017.

Revenue grew 9.3 percent to $1.59 billion in the three months ended Dec.31.

Apache's stock fell 5.1 percent to $35.30 in morning trading, as oil prices and broader markets edged higher. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston and Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Bernadette Baum)

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