Oil and gas exploration company Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES – $77.69) said its fourth-quarter income soared as the company benefited from recent asset sales. The New York-based energy provider also said it agreed to sell about 74,000 acres of dry gas acreage in the Utica Shale to an unidentified third-party for about $924 million; part of a larger effort to reshape its portfolio. The company reported a quarterly profit of $1.93 billion, or $5.76 a share, up from $374 million, or $1.10 a share, a year earlier. Excluding income from asset sales, net profit for Q4 fell to $0.96 per share from $1.20 a year earlier, missing the average $1.08 consensus estimate. Revenue fell 6.1% to $5.57 billion as exploration and production sales slipped to $2.72 billion from $2.95 billion a year ago and compared to the $2.3 billion average estimate. Hess went on to say the company has generated $7.8 billion in total proceeds from asset sales, paid down $2.4 billion of short-term debt and added about $1 billion of cash to the balance sheet as a cushion against future commodity price volatility. Hess was able to raise its dividend last year to a current annual rate of $1.00 from $0.40 and is in the midst of a $4 billion stock repurchase program. The company is also in the process of selling or spinning off its retail gas station business. Earnings forecasts for 2014 range from a low of $3.85 to as much as $6.85, so there is a great deal of assumption as to how well Hess will perform this year. Nonetheless, I believe long-term capital appreciation potential still appears to be worthwhile for investors willing to speculate on further corporate re-structuring and an improving exploration and production portfolio.