Investors Prefer Oil Field Services Now Over E&P Stocks: 3 to Buy

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The huge oil trade that started off the lows in February has been a boon for investors that disregarded overly bearish Wall Street warnings and bought shares at the bottom in January and February. With the spot price of oil almost doubling, many stocks that were absolutely hammered did the same. The question for investors now is whether there still is upside in the exploration and production (E&P) stocks or is it time to reallocate.

In a recent research note, RBC reports that at the firm’s recent Global Energy and Power Executives conference, 82% of respondents of an intra-conference survey said they now favor oil field services to E&P stocks. That is a huge shift from May when most of the investors preferred E&P stocks.

We screened the RBC oil field services research universe and found three stocks with double-digit return potential, and all three are rated Outperform.

Halliburton

Shares of this company have ticked higher since the deal with Baker Hughes fell through due to regulators concerns, but they are still down almost 50% from highs printed two years ago. Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) is one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the energy industry. The company serves the upstream oil and gas industry throughout the life cycle of the reservoir, from locating hydrocarbons and managing geological data to drilling and formation evaluation, well construction and completion, and optimizing production through the life of the field.

The oil field giant announced last year a $1 billion investment to develop huge potential oil fields in Ecuador and it has entered into a long-time deal with Petroamazonas, an Ecuador-based company involved in the exploration and development of the country’s oil reserves. With the price of oil being absolutely demolished over the past year, this top oil service company is a great stock to buy on sale, as the oil recovery has shown some legs.

Top Wall Street analysts see the end of the Baker Hughes deal as removing uncertainty on the company, and they also think that the company still has acquisition possibilities, which could help expand the business footprint.

Halliburton investors are paid a 1.65% dividend. The RBC price target for the stock is $50, and the Thomson/First Call consensus price target is set at $46.32. The stock closed Tuesday at $43.99 per share.

Schlumberger

This top oil services company came in with first-quarter results that beat expectations. Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE: SLB) remains the largest oilfield services company in the world for now, with far-reaching operations all around the globe, and it could be poised for years of solid growth despite the huge turn down in oil pricing. Top Wall Street analysts think the company will continue to drive margins on execution, technologies and efficiencies. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and China are expected by some to be the strongest markets, if geopolitical concerns remain somewhat in check.

The solid first-quarter earnings and revenues came in slightly above Wall Street estimates. Recent reports have indicated the company may be looking to buy back its former Iranian unit. The report also noted that Schlumberger sold Well Services of Iran to Nima Energy, a Hong Kong–based holding company, when it left Iran and the sales-agreement reportedly included a provision that could give the oil services giant “first right to buy back the company when sanctions were lifted,” per Dow Jones news.

Schlumberger investors are paid a solid 2.6% dividend. RBC has a $95 price objective for the stock, and the consensus price target is at $87.83. The shares closed most recently at $77.46.

Weatherford

This stock has been absolutely demolished, but a recent successful secondary offering cheered Wall Street and shareholders. Weatherford International Ltd. (NYSE: WFT) is one of the largest multinational oilfield service companies, providing innovative solutions, technology and services to the oil and gas industry. It operates in over 100 countries and has a network of approximately 1,200 locations, including manufacturing, service, research and development, and training facilities and employs approximately 37,000 people.

The company offers customers a wide range of global capabilities, including a proprietary system for pressure management in the mushrooming arena of subsea production. The changes in government oil policy in Mexico in 2014 may provide some favorable tailwinds for the company, despite the huge downturn in oil pricing.

The company recently completed a successful $1.5 billion debt offering, which it will use to refinance existing debt and also push maturities back. In addition, the company has been resetting its organizational structure and cutting costs. The company continued with its reduction in force in the recently reported first quarter of 2016, completing 78% of its latest 6,000 headcount reduction target, terminating operations at four of the planned nine manufacturing and service facilities for the year, and shutting down 26 operating and other facilities in North America.

The RBC price target for the stock is $9, and the consensus is set at $7.89. Shares closed Tuesday at $6.50.

All three of these companies make good sense for investors looking to add oil field services. With market volatility heightened, investors may want to buy partial positions here, and see how the summer plays out.