Devon Energy Corp. is taking a step back from its position as a worldwide explorer for oil and natural gas. The Oklahoma City-based independent oil and gas producer announced Monday it would sell off its Gulf of Mexico and international assets so it could focus on its onshore holdings in North America. "Simply put, we have an overabundance of opportunities,” Chairman and CEO Larry Nichols said in a conference call. "This repositioning allows us to play to our strengths.” Company officials estimated the sales could net as much as $7.5 billion after taxes. "The proceeds will be allocated between accelerating our North American onshore opportunities and reducing debt,” Nichols said. Nichols said Devon officials did not believe the value of the company’s international assets were adequately valued in its stock price. "We believe that Devon will emerge from this position with the ability to fund growth throughout the cycles of oil and gas prices, resulting in sustainable, organic growth per share,” he said. Devon has holdings — including more than 1,100 producing wells — in the Gulf of Mexico, China, Brazil and Azerbaijan. "We expect to receive a great deal of interest in these assets,” Nichols said, noting they are often the subject of unsolicited inquiries. The sales are expected to be completed by the end of 2010. Devon President John Richels said the assets going on the auction block account for about 7 percent of the company’s estimated reserves and 11 percent of its production, but they command almost 30 percent of Devon’s current capital. Richels said Devon will be able to significantly improve its capital efficiency by focusing its investments on its North American plays. Devon plans to drill an additional 150 wells in Oklahoma in 2010 as part of its expansion effort. Company officials estimate the new strategy will increase Devon’s annual production by 10 percent over the next four years. Richels said that seems like a reasonable figure because Devon has notched 9 percent compound annual growth in the past even as the company funded its long-term portfolio. "After the redeployment of the sales proceeds, we fully expect to deliver significant production growth in 2012 and beyond, without the need to issue equity or debt,” he said. If the sales net $5.5 billion, Richels said Devon would devote $2.1 billion to bolstering its operations and $3.4 billion to debt. Former Devon board member David A. Hager is excited about the company’s shift. He said he has spent most of his time studying the company’s assets since he became Devon’s vice president of exploration and production six months ago. "I am convinced this is the right strategy,” Hager said. "Devon has over 12 billion barrels of total risked resource potential without adding one acre of land.” Investors apparently were pleased with the announcement. Devon’s stock closed at $70.99, a $3.20 increase. Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit said Devon’s stock could climb higher after BP’s Monday report that it had discovered more oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Devon has holdings in that area as well. Gheit said he thinks Devon should hold on to some of those assets. "I would have liked the company to keep some interest in the deep water, which was the original plan,” he said in an e-mail to The Oklahoman. Jake Dollarhide, chief executive of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, said the move is indicative of Devon’s faith in natural gas as the energy of the future. "Devon is putting it all in, putting all its chips on domestic natural gas,” he said. Dollarhide said Devon will lose some high-risk, high-rewards assets as it repositions itself, but he expects the move to pay off.