After last month’s collapse, oil prices have bounced back. Will BP (NYSE:BP) stock see an additional boost? The oil giant’s shares have moved higher from their March sell-off lows. Rising from $15.51 per share to $23.62 per share, BP stock got a more than 50% gain in two months.
Yet, other integrated names have performed even better during this timeframe. Take Chevron (NYSE:CVX), for instance. CVX shares are up about 80% from their 52-week lows. ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP)? Their shares have doubled since their March lows.
So, what’s the issue here? More like two issues. With investors anticipating a dividend cut and the company shouldering a massive debt load, there are plenty of reasons for concern.
Despite these overhangs, today’s prices may be a solid entry point for BP stock. Sure, risks remain. However, energy prices continue to bounce back. With the novel coronavirus soon in the rearview mirror, “return to normal” will finally happen. With these factors in mind, there’s plenty of potential for shares to move higher.
Why the Rebound Has Only Just Started For BP Stock
Oil may no longer be trading at negative prices, but it’s still substantially lower than where it was just a few months prior. At the start of 2020, crude oil was trading above $60 a barrel. Today? Around $34 a barrel.
Besides beaten-down prices, things are moving in the right direction. The coronavirus took its toll. With much of the world’s economic activity brought to a halt, it’s no surprise demand for petroleum collapsed.
Yet, with the pandemic slowly ending, expect energy prices to continue bouncing back. Granted, experts like the EIA (Energy Information Administration) don’t see prices heading above $50 per barrel until the end of 2021.
However, BP is taking active steps to improve its cash flow situation while oil lingers at lower-than-normal prices. By slashing costs, the company expects its breakeven oil price to fall from $56 a barrel in 2019 to just $35 a barrel in 2021.
Granted, this implies continued profitability challenges this year. But with Wall Street taking a forward-looking approach, shares could continue to climb in tandem with oil prices, as investors anticipate a rebound in net income and cash flow.
In short, shares look appealing as a bottom-fisher’s buy. There are some risks to keep in mind before you put in a buy order.
Is the Dividend Safe?
A dividend cut seems to be the other shoe that’s yet to drop. As InvestorPlace’s Tom Taulli wrote May 18, the company’s current cash flows can’t cover the dividend. In short, shares now have a seemingly high yield of 10.7%, but that’s only because investors expect a cut sometime soon.
Is their validity to these fears? Peers like Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.B, NYSE:RDS.A) have already slashed their dividends. And analysts like Morgan Stanley’s Martijn Rats think BP is the next one to announce a cut. He sees the company reducing its dividend by half in order to avoid taking on additional debt.
Speaking of debt, that’s the other issue at hand with this company. Taulli touched on this in his write-up, stating that the company’s outstanding debt continues to climb. Coupled with reduced cash flow, this could mean a serious liquidity situation.
Or does it? Based on a market update from back in April, the company detailed their liquidity situation, and their game plan to ride out today’s storms. As of March 31, BP had $32 billion in cash and available credit lines.
To combat sharp declines in cash flow, the company announced a 25% cut to capital expenditures. They also plan billions in cost-cutting across their upstream (exploration) and downstream (refining/marketing) business units. Pending asset sales could also free up additional capital.
The situation at BP is far from perfect, yet these aforementioned risks are likely accounted for in today’s valuation. When the other shoes does drop, don’t expect shares to fall much further from here.
Risks Remain, But BP Could Move Higher
Things turn on a dime in the oil patch. Whether it be Middle East conflict, trade wars, or pandemics, it’s tough to “predict the unpredictable” with energy prices. With today’s crisis slowly dissipating, it’s fair to assume a bounce back in demand is just around the corner. In short, plenty of reason for oil prices to continue trending higher.
Although the company has a lot on its plate regarding debt and an unsustainable dividend, investors have largely priced these risks into the current share price. If and when the dividend gets a haircut, don’t expect shares to sell off further.
In short, with the potential for shares to rally in tandem with rising oil prices, consider BP stock a buy.
Thomas Niel, contributor to InvestorPlace, has written single-stock analysis since 2016. As of this writing, Thomas Niel did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.