UBS Says to Buy the Big 3 Land Drillers Now

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With oil bursting through the $60 level, some people are starting to get bullish again as they sense that maybe the worst is over. With the oil rig count now half of what it was less than a year ago, the winners and losers are being separated, and it is pretty clear that the overleveraged players, especially in the deepwater, may be in big trouble. In a new report, UBS says that the big three in land drilling are where the best odds lie right now.

One thing that stands out in the report is that the UBS team points out that all the largest contract drillers have gained market share in the bottom of the cycle. Plus, they are also not taking the public relations beating that some of the fracking giants are from hedge fund manager David Einhorn. The UBS analysts say to focus on these three: Helmerich & Payne Inc. (NYSE: HP), Nabors Industries Ltd. (NYSE: NBR) and Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: PTEN).

Helmerich & Payne

This one primarily operates as a contract drilling company in South America, the Middle East and Africa. It 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. As of November 13, 2014, the company’s fleet included 333 land rigs in the United States, 37 international land rigs and nine offshore platform rigs.

Its contract drilling business operates through three reportable segments: U.S. Land, Offshore and International Land. The U.S. Land segment operates primarily in Oklahoma, California, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Nevada.

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The drilling giant beat on fiscal second-quarter 2015 results. Earnings per share (EPS) from continuing operations (excluding special items) came in at $0.96, surpassing the consensus estimate of $0.79. Revenues of $883.1 million were down 1.2% from the prior-year quarter. However, the top-line came above the Wall Street estimates of $759 million.

Helmerich & Payne investors are paid a very solid 3.9% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is $85 and the Thomson/First Call consensus figure is $74.13. Shares closed Wednesday at $78.15.

Nabors Industries

This company provides drilling and rig services. It offers rig instrumentation, optimization software and directional drilling services, as well as provides completion, life-of-well maintenance, and plugging and abandonment of a well.

In addition, the company markets approximately 466 land drilling rigs for oil and gas land-based drilling operations in the United States, Canada and approximately 20 other countries worldwide; approximately 445 rigs for land well-servicing and work-over services in the United States; 98 rigs for land well-servicing and work-over services in Canada; 42 rigs for offshore drilling operations in the United States and internationally; and seven jackup units and components of trucks and fluid hauling vehicles.

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Nabors also posted strong results for the most recent quarter. The company reported first-quarter 2015 earnings from continuing operations — excluding one-time items — of $0.20 cents per share, crushing the consensus estimate of $0.05. The bottom line also jumped 25% from $0.16 per share in the year-ago quarter. Significant higher profit from drilling and rig services aided the results.

Nabors investors are paid a 1.6% dividend. The UBS price target is $19, and the consensus price objective is $16.71. Shares closed most recently at $16.33.

Patterson-UTI Energy

Patterson-UTI Energy subsidiaries provide onshore contract drilling and pressure pumping services to exploration and production companies in North America. Patterson-UTI Drilling Co. and its subsidiaries operate land-based drilling rigs in oil and natural gas producing regions of the continental United States and western Canada. Universal Pressure Pumping and Universal Well Services provide pressure pumping services primarily in Texas and the Appalachian region.

To make it a clean sweep for the big three earningswise, the company also reported better-than-expected first-quarter 2015 results on improved rig revenues. However, the bottom line did witness a substantial year-over-year decline due to a decrease in rig activity. Patterson-UTI reported EPS excluding non-cash charges of $0.06, surpassing the consensus of $0.03. The reported earnings were, however, substantially below the year-ago quarter earnings of $0.24. While not the blow-out of the other two, still very good considering the sector.

Patterson-UTI investors are paid a 2.1% dividend. The UBS price target is $27, while the consensus stands at $23.25. The stock closed most recently at $21.74 a share.

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Given the hurt that has been put on the energy sector over the past year, these three stocks have performed well. Plus, they are taking market share from the weaker companies as the lower oil prices wash out the weaker hands.