Energy and Oil Services Remain Top 2018 Sector Pick: 5 Land Drillers to Buy Now

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While most eyes on Wall Street have been focused on technology and the banks over the past year, one sector that has snoozed was energy, and especially oil services. When oil plummeted, the first thing many exploration and production companies did was cut their capital expenditures. That in turn led oilfield services companies, and especially the land drillers, to park some of their fleet on the sidelines.

With West Texas Intermediate crude back over the $56 a barrel level and Brent crude well over $60, the scenario for the land driller in the United States is significantly brighter. A new Jefferies research report make the case that four top companies are in an excellent position. The report noted:

The argument that the U.S. onshore rig count can recover recent declines relatively quickly in 2018 has strengthened through earnings season, in our view, given (1) commentary from the contract drillers, (2) permitting trends, (3) that the recent pullback has been concentrated in privates (which is not unusual seasonally), (4) continued modest declines in drilling efficiency in the third quarter tod 2017 and (5) higher oil price.

Jefferies’ outstanding oil services and equipment analyst Brad Handler has five oilfield services top stocks for investors to consider. All have solid upside potential, but it should be noted that three of the companies are probably better suited for aggressive accounts with a higher risk tolerance.

Helmerich & Payne

This large cap sector leader is the safest and most conservative play for investors and is rated Hold at Jefferies. Helmerich & Payne Inc. (NYSE: HP) is the largest U.S. land driller and provides onshore drilling services primarily in the United States. It also offers land rigs internationally, as well as offshore platform rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company provides drilling rigs, equipment, personnel and camps on a contract basis to explore for and develop oil and gas from onshore areas and fixed platforms, tension-leg platforms, and spars in offshore areas. Its contract drilling business operates through three reportable segments: U.S. Land, Offshore and International Land.

Many top Wall Street analysts feel that the company is one of the best positioned for the U.S. land recovery, and they also cite the strong balance sheet and the sector leading dividend.

Shareholders receive a 4.82% dividend. The Jefferies price target for the stock is $50, and the Wall Street consensus target is $49.96. Shares traded Monday well above both levels at $57.95.

Nabors Industries

Shares of this drilling and rig services provider were recently upgraded to Buy at Jefferies. Nabors Industries Ltd (NYSE: NBR) owns and operates the largest land-based drilling rig fleet in the world, and it is a leading provider of offshore platform workover and drilling rigs in the United States and select international markets. Revenues in 2016 were $2.23 billion.

Nabors markets approximately 400 rigs for land-based drilling operations in the United States, Canada and approximately 20 other countries worldwide, as well as 41 rigs for offshore drilling operations in the United States and internationally. The stock has been crushed this year, and Jefferies said this:

Nabors is down 62% year-to-date which reflects investor focus on its balance sheet and ability to generate free cash flow and pay down debt, in our view. This concern has been exacerbated recently by a softer-than-expected earnings report and focus on 2018 non-cash deferred revenues. While we acknowledging there is no quick fix to company’s balance sheet, we note that macro industry environment has gotten more favorable and a large part of the NAM Land newbuild/upgrade capex is now behind it.

Investors receive a 3.75% dividend, which may be lowered. Jefferies has a $9 price target, and the consensus price objective is $8.85. Shares traded Monday morning at $6.15.