by Aaron Levitt | November 27, 2012 9:23 am
With the world demanding more and more energy resources, the oil services industry is poised to help unlock all those essential hydrocarbons. After all, drilling the earth’s depths and hard rock requires some serious technical know-how.
And yet, the sector has been a mixed bag for the past year or so.
The growth of hydraulic fracturing and dearth of shale gas have sent prices for the fuel downward. That has caused a variety of E&P firms to shut down wells and idle production. Amid this idling, the demand for fracking pumps, drilling mud and all the necessary accessories has also dropped. Needless to say, earnings — along with share prices — for those providing that equipment have fallen as the cuts have taken place.
That is, unless you’re focusing on more profitable waters.
For investors, service firm Cameron International (NYSE:CAM) continues to prove it has what it takes to navigate the tricky environment through a series of big offshore deals and ventures.
While some oil service firms — like fracker kingpin Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) — have suffered in the wake of lowered drilling, Cameron has been quite resilient. That’s because of the company’s continued focus on the more profitable deepwater and offshore drilling market.
That commitment gets stronger each day.
Up first is the company’s recent game-changing deal with oil service giant Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB). Under the terms of the joint venture — called OneSubSea — the new company will make products and systems for the subsea oil and gas market. Cameron will maintain control of the venture and will contribute its existing subsea business. It also will receive $600 million from Schlumberger as well as gain control of its Framo, Surveillance, Flow Assurance and Power and Controls businesses.
The key piece of the venture is that customers now will have a one-stop shop for their complete well needs.
By linking up, Cameron gains access to Schlumberger’s extensive knowledge of advanced reservoir recovery techniques, wellbore technologies and industry-leading well completions. This — combined with Cameron’s expertise in flow control — will allow E&P firms to go to one provider for their well needs, rather than piecemeal a complete system.
At first blush, a deal involving undersea trees and valves sounds boring. Maybe it is. But these systems are needed to link wells and pull crude oil up to the surface for use. Production equipment used for subsea operations is placed directly on the sea floor and must be developed to handle strong ocean currents, harsh temperatures and deepwater pressures. These systems cost big bucks to implement, and the J.V. is positioned to offer a comprehensive subsea package as well as assist producers in improving yield and recovery efforts.
From a consumer’s point of view, having two of the biggest brand names under one roof is very appealing.
Cameron will get a chance to use all of those new synergies soon. The company recently announced it had won a $275 million contract to equip an ultra-deepwater drillship, from bow to stern, for STX Offshore & Shipbuilding. The deal is the first such complete rig package for the oil services firm. The contract ultimately will showcase Cameron’s ability to provide full rig packages and implement many of the products from OneSubSea.
Cameron’s recent bullish moves highlight CAM’s appeal as a portfolio holding. The joint-venture deal with Schlumberger is a win-win — it reflects continued growing enthusiasm for offshore oil & gas drilling, as the segment has been a bright spot for oilfield services companies in recent quarters. The subsea and deepwater drilling world continues to grow, too — Schlumberger estimates over the next four years, around 200 such fields will be commissioned worldwide, with operational subsea well counts reaching 11,000 by 2020.
That’s a tremendous amount of potential for Cameron.
The subsea sector always has been dominated by smaller and specialized players; the J.V. allows for one of the bigger oilfield services companies to really sink its teeth into the subsea world. On the flip side, Cameron — aside from the initial cash infusion — gains access to Schlumberger’s brand name, global scope and engineering prowess. The deal should continue to benefit both parties for years to come as more deep sea wells are tapped.
Conversely, the strategic benefits of the venture could spell trouble for other subsea equipment makers like FMC Technologies (NYSE:FTI).
As for CAM stock itself: Shares have sold off along with the broader market of late and currently trade at 13 times FY13 earnings — not too shabby considering Cameron was one of the few oil service stocks to beat analyst estimates and not suffer from the dwindling shale gas production.
Plus, it’s worth noting that Cameron’s $13.25 billion market cap isn’t necessarily out of reach for a potential buyout — especially given the M&A numbers we’ve seen lately in the energy space. Schlumberger could be just testing out the buyout waters with the deal.
Cameron’s continued success in the deepwater world makes the stock a buy; the stock’s mild decline since September just makes it a cheaper one.
As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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