If any sector has taken a beating this year, it is energy. Whether it is exploration and production companies, large integrated oils, oilfield services leaders or energy master limited partnerships, all have been hit hard. The curious item is that the price of oil has had a solid rise since last summer, up over 50%, and is trading at levels where many of the top companies are making solid profits. Plus, current geopolitical risk in the Middle East has oil prices soaring, with the West Texas Intermediate over the $66 level Wednesday morning.
We screened our 24/7 Wall St. research database and looked at recent reports from the top companies on Wall Street. We found eight companies trading near 52-week lows that are rated Buy and have some solid upside to their price targets.
This integrated giant is a safer way for investors looking to stay or get long the energy sector, and it has a big Permian Basin exposure. Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) is a U.S.-based integrated oil and gas company with worldwide operations in exploration and production, refining and marketing, transportation and petrochemicals.
The company sports a sizable dividend and has a solid place in the sector when it comes to natural gas and liquefied natural gas. Some on Wall Street estimate that the company will have a compound annual growth rate of over 5% for the next five years.
The company’s production from the Permian Basin continues to exceed trajectory, and it provided investors with a reasonable bullish update at the March 6 investors day. The Merrill Lynch team noted this after the presentation:
With Permian production and asset disposals targets reset, we believe the company can raise the dividend 20% and buyback 15% of shares. We view the strategy update as appropriately conservative for one of the more oil levered majors. The Chevron strategy thru 2020 is focused on discipline enabled by step change in capital efficiency driven by doubling Permian production.
Shareholders receive a 3.77% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the shares is $138, and the Wall Street consensus target is $135.88. Shares closed Tuesday at $118.85.
This one may offer investors solid upside potential and could start growing the dividend again. ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) explores for, produces, transports and markets crude oil, bitumen, natural gas, liquefied natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) worldwide.
Conoco’s portfolio includes resource-rich North American tight oil and oil sands assets; lower-risk legacy assets in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia; various international developments; and an inventory of conventional and unconventional exploration prospects. Many Wall Street analysts feel the company can accelerate growth from a reloaded portfolio depth in the Bakken and Eagle Ford, and with visibility on future growth from a sizable position in the Permian.
Merrill Lynch has grown progressively more positive on the shares and noted in a recent report:
Based on updated cash flow sensitivities we suggest operating operating cash flow could top $11 billion at $64 Brent, drawing more buybacks. With advantaged leverage to Brent and little production sharing contracts entitlement effects, we view Conoco as a strong free cash ‘yield’ name.
Investors receive a 1.83% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $72 price target, and the consensus target is $66.67. Conoco closed Tuesday at $62.34.
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