A Literally Superior Energy Opportunity

If you're keeping score, it's been a very good quarter for companies in the oilfield services sector. Count Louisiana-based Superior Energy Services (NYSE: SPN  ) as the latest to "hit a lick" in the group.

For the quarter, the company earned $75.1 million, or $0.91 a share -- up 36% on the net income line from last year's $55.2 million and $0.68 a share. Revenue increased by 37% to $398.9 million. And if you back out a $4.6 million after-tax gain on a sale of a business and adjust for a new tax rate, net income for the most recent quarter was $69.2 million -- still 25% above the year-ago quarter.

To my mind, one of the impressive aspects of Superior's operations has been the company's ability to grow steadily in the face of slowing Gulf of Mexico activity, the venue where, not long ago, most of its revenues were generated. In fact, CEO Terry Hall noted on his conference call that, in a few short years, the company has shifted from obtaining virtually all of its work in the Gulf to getting more than half from other horizons.

Superior, which is only about a decade-and-a-half old -- or young, as listed companies go -- serves the exploration and production sector through four divisions: well intervention services, rental tools, marine services, and oil and gas operations. In the last-named area, it has interests in oil and gas wells, so it's something of a production company under a services umbrella.

The intervention segment includes a variety of coiled tubing, wireline, pumping and stimulation, evaluation, and management assistance to oil and gas producers. As such, it competes somewhat in specific areas with Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) and Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) .

With much of the energy services attention these days going to those two major operators, as well as to the likes of deepwater drillers Transocean (NYSE: RIG  ) and Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO  ) , I must admit to being intrigued by Superior's growth, coupled with its less-than-11x forward 2008 multiple. On those bases, and given the current prices of both crude oil and natural gas, it seems to me this company could present a superior opportunity for Foolish energy investors.

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