Why Goldman Sachs Is Investing in Key Energy

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When the markets closed on Thursday for the long weekend, Key Energy Services Inc. (NYSE: KEG) had a market cap of around $77 million. By mid-morning Monday, the firm’s market cap was more than $91 million on a jump of nearly 16% in the share price.

The only thing different? On Friday, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) filed a Schedule 13-D with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealing that the bank had purchased a 7.5% stake in Key. The Houston-based company provides U.S. onshore well completion, workover, maintenance and abandonment services to oil and natural gas producers.

When Key reported 2018 results in late February, the company posted a quarterly adjusted loss of $1.19 per share and a full-year loss of $4.38 per share. The company noted, however, that despite the declines, demand for its services was rising, pushing prices up and that the company had been able to lower its costs.

Between February 15 and April 16 of this year, Goldman Sachs has acquired 1.53 million shares of Key Energy Services. According to the SEC filing, the acquired shares are “for investment purposes by an investing and lending desk (the “Desk”) and the remainder by other business units of [Goldman Sachs] in the ordinary course of their market making activities.”

But wait, there’s more. Goldman has bigger plans:

[Goldman Sachs] intend to review [its] holdings in the Issuer on a continuing basis. In addition, without limitation, the Desk and its representatives expect, from time to time, to engage in discussions with management of the Issuer, the board of directors of the Issuer, stockholders of the Issuer … regarding the Issuer’s business, operations and operating performance, the Issuer’s strategy, future plans, prospects, corporate structure, board composition, management and governance, the Issuer’s assets, corporate expenses, capitalization and dividend policy, the Issuer’s organizational documents and agreements, strategic transactions and other extraordinary corporate transactions (including, but not limited to, asset sales, carve-out transactions, mergers, reorganizations or sales) as a means of enhancing stockholder value and/or the de-listing or de-registration of the Issuer.

Goldman also plans to consider and possibly take additional steps “to bring about changes with respect to the Issuer to increase stockholder value …” including proposing transactions on the matters it listed. In addition to its trading desk activities with Key stock, Goldman also said it will be a market maker for the stock.

While activist investors are certainly nothing new, an activist investor that makes a market in a company’s stock may have a more solid position from which to attract new shareholders and push up the share price. In Key’s case, the company does not pay a dividend. even though it’s been in business since 1977. Does Goldman plan to change that? And how much can Key realistically pay?

More likely, perhaps, is freshening up of the share price for a possible takeover as the onshore oilfield services business picks up. Goldman began buying Key stock when the shares traded below $2, and the bank’s last purchase was transacted at $3.81 a share. Shares traded up 25% at around $4.83 late Monday morning. That’s still a long way from the top of the 52-week range of $1.59 to $18.40.

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