Sometimes you have to read between the lines, gleaning the subtle clues of how well a company is actually doing. This is not one of those times.
Seadrill Ltd (NYSE:SDRL) is hanging by a thread, and SDRL stock is virtually un-ownable here. How do we know? Because the oil drilling outfit has suspiciously been left out of the modest recovery other energy stocks have cobbled together, and — oh yeah — Seadrill has recently made legal moves that would shield one of its key operating units if the company did file for bankruptcy.
Why would a company do something like that? It’s not tough to connect the dots.
Misery for SDRL Stock Owners
There’s a reason SDRL stock is (literally) down more than 99% since its late-2013 peak … a peak that occurred when oil prices were sky high. Investorplace’s Aaron Levitt arguably summed the matter up best, though, explaining last week:
“With oil hovering between $45 and $50 per barrel and the glut of crude not ending, it doesn’t make much sense for energy firms to tackle expensive deepwater projects. That’s a problem if you rent/own the high-tech equipment needed to tap the ultra-deepwater areas of the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea. It’s particularly a major issue if you have more than $11 billion in debt.”
Yes, Seadrill is that company, sitting on $11 billion in debt that costs it roughly $200 million every quarter. Though the company is technically profitable, $3.2 billion worth of that debt has either come due this year, or will come due before the end of 2017. The company doesn’t have the money it needs to repay that debt, and is struggling to refinance it. There’s just not enough drilling business on the near-term horizon.
To its credit, Seadrill was recently able to postpone $850 million worth of debt maturities to mid-September, as well as amend its credit facility so its partner Seadrill Partners LLC (NYSE:SDLP) wouldn’t see its assets claimed by creditors should Seadrill itself file Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Specifically, Seadrill Partners’ fleet will no longer serve as collateral for the parent company’s debt.
The only thing the amendment does, however, is lay the groundwork for an orderly bankruptcy. With the details of any bankruptcy plans increasingly on the table, most say it’s inevitable at this point.
Then there’s the not-so-veiled message to shareholders that came with news of the postponement of some of its debt’s maturities:
“It is likely that the comprehensive restructuring plan will require a substantial impairment or conversion of our bonds, as well as impairment and losses for other stakeholders, including shipyards. As a result, the Company currently expects that shareholders are likely to receive minimal recovery for their existing shares.”
No minced words there.
Creditors, or bond-holders, are usually first in line to collect whatever’s left over in a corporate breakup or reorganization, as they at least have a contractual agreement (a loan) with a company. Owners of SDRL stock are essentially owners of a company, and like any business owner, share in its success or failure. In this case, they’ll be sharing in its failure. Seadrill has been trying to make this clear for weeks now, stopping just short of saying “don’t expect this to end well.”
Seadrill Earnings Outlook
Though there’s no guarantee, it’s likely Seadrill will add some color to this matter on Thursday morning of this week. That’s when the company tells SDRL stock holders, and the rest of the world, how it fared in its recently completed fiscal second quarter. The numbers are apt to confirm whether or not the company has a shot at continuing on as a viable company.
It’s probably going to be ugly.
As of the latest look, analysts collectively expect Seadrill to swing from a profit of 65 cents per share of SDRL stock to a loss of seven cents per share this time around. Sales are expected to fall 37.8%, from $868 million a year ago to $540.2 million this time around. The outlooks are all over the place though, underscoring just how much of an unpredictable mess the company has become.
The figures are almost sure to be secondary, however. The post-report discussion will mostly be about the company’s odds of surviving.
Of course, if you’ve ridden Seadrill stock all the way down to its current price of 26 cents per share, you really don’t have a lot left to lose by sticking with it at least one more day. Your biggest consideration you may have now is (hopefully) choosing whether to book your loss in 2017 or 2018, offsetting any taxable gains you may have in either year.
Still, that’s not really something to celebrate.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter.