Energy Business

Crude Oil Drops 3% on Strong Dollar, Offshore Drillers Drop More

Offshore drill rig
Source: Thinkstock
Equities have been getting pummeled on the first day of trading after the long Memorial Day weekend, and the energy sector is taking the heaviest beating, down about 2% in the early afternoon. Crude oil traded down more than 3% at around $57.85 on a weaker euro — and a stronger dollar.

On Thursday, offshore driller Seadrill Ltd. (NYSE: SDRL) is scheduled to report first-quarter results and analysts are looking for earnings per share (EPS) of $0.63 on revenues of $1.26 billion. In the same period a year ago, Seadrill posted EPS of $1.58 and revenues of $1.22 billion. The company also has suspended its $4.00 per share annual dividend.

The stock of the best-performing offshore driller has dropped by nearly 45% over the past 12 months. That would be Noble Energy PLC (NYSE: NE). Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG), Ensco PLC (NYSE: ESV) and Ocean Rig UDW PLC (NYSE: ORIG) are all down between 50% and 55%. Seadrill shares are down 65%, after dropping 75% as of mid-March.

To expect the offshore drillers to make a comeback as crude prices try to stay above $60 a barrel is probably wishful thinking. Offshore projects, particularly new drilling, have been delayed by collapsing crude oil prices, and there is little chance that they are going to be economic again until prices top $70 a barrel (about $75 for Brent). Every dip in crude prices will weigh on the sector, and there is no guarantee that we have seen the bottom yet.

The odd thing is that Transocean, Ocean Rig and Noble all reported better-than-expected earnings earlier this month or late in April. The reasons for the unexpected good news are a little vague, but there have been suggestions that bonus payments for work completed ahead of contract schedules and pulling some revenue ahead into the first quarter helped paint a brighter picture than is in fact the reality.

In any event, we would expect Seadrill to meet, and even exceed, the EPS estimate. But without the fat dividend it will not mean much to investors.

Seadrill traded down 3.3% on Tuesday afternoon, at $12.88 in a 52-week range of $8.58 to $40.44.

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