Schlumberger: Set for Success?

Every so often, a rational event comes along to renew investors' faith in the market. On Friday, oilfield services kingpin Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) reported generally uninspiring quarterly results. But Mr. Market, who has a commendable sensitivity to oversold stocks, lifted the company more than 10% on the day.

In its fourth quarter of fiscal 2008, the company recorded a net profit of $1.15 billion, or $0.95 a share, down from $1.38 billion, or $1.12 a share. Revenue for the quarter rose by about 10%, to $6.87 billion.

Despite its size, scope, and apparent complexity, Schlumberger is a straightforward company with two separate operating divisions. Its Oilfield Services unit, which provides a variety of consulting and assistance to exploration and production companies around the world, increased its pre-tax operating income by 4% year over year.

Its other segment, WesternGeco, which is primarily involved in seismic activities, saw its pre-tax operating income slide by 68%. That decline occurred in part because multiclient sales of data slumped, in line with lower discretionary spending by many of Western's customers, especially at year's end.

Schlumberger's earnings releases are reliably more valuable than many other companies' dry disclosures. Witness these straightforward, informative comments from CEO Andrew Gould about the industry's current global status: "The key indicator of a future recovery in oilfield services activity will be a stabilization and recovery in the demand for oil. The recent years of increased exploration and production spending have not been sufficient to substantially improve the supply situation."

Beyond that, the releases typically take the reader from region to region, providing specific examples of ways in which Schlumberger's expertise has benefited its customers. The latest version described work performed for oil sands player Suncor Energy (NYSE: SU  ) in Canada, along with acid stimulation operations for a Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) joint venture in Venezuela. And in both Kazakhstan and Angola, Schlumberger undertook sophisticated wireline services for a Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) affiliate and BP (NYSE: BP  ) , respectively.

Fools who recognize that energy will always be volatile should take a long, hard look at Schlumberger, which has slid in value by nearly two-thirds from its 52-week high. When oil and gas prices begin to recover -- probably sooner than most of us expect -- Schlumberger will likely be one of the first and biggest beneficiaries. That may be the signal Mr. Market is now trying to send.

Schlumberger earns four stars from Motley Fool CAPS players. Have you given the company a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down?

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Foolish contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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