Does National Oilwell Varco Hold Promise?

As economies around the globe develop, demand for energy is booming. Not surprisingly, the pursuit for new discoveries of oil and natural gas has pushed exploration and production companies to employ cutting-edge technology and modern methods to extract black gold from locations where it wasn't before attainable. These advancements wouldn't have been possible without the services of some companies that work closely with these E&Ps. One such company, National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV  ) , which came out with impressive first quarter results, shows why energy investors should consider it for their portfolio.

Outstanding numbers
The oil equipment and services market has been picking up steadily because of increased drilling activity around the globe following the 2008 recession. Total revenue for the first quarter clocked in at $4.3 billion, a solid 37% higher than last year's first quarter. As a result, net income shot up a fantastic 49% to $606 million.

The biggest and most profitable segment was rig technology, where revenue grew almost 41%, with an operating margin of 24%. The best part is that prospects are looking brighter than ever: At the end of March, total backlog for the segment swelled to $10.4 billion.

In the quarter, National bagged an order for seven drillships for Brazil. Petrobras (NYSE: PBR  ) remains a major customer as National tenders new offshore rig projects for the state-owned company's indigenous new-build programs. While management warns of delays in Brazil, prospects here are outstanding as far as business is concerned.

The petroleum services and supplies segment wasn't far behind in terms of growth. Operating profit grew 68% year on year. The biggest driver was increased rig activity in North America, as a number of gas rigs were converted and new oil rigs came online.

Adding to the distribution footprint
Management seems to be eyeing another segment: distribution and transmission. Currently, there isn't much to brag about here, though. In the first quarter, it accounted for just 13% of total revenue, while operating margin, at 7.6%, was the lowest among the three segments. However, the attractive part was that operating profit shot up a cool 59% over last year's first quarter. According to the latest reports, management has now agreed to acquire from Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) the Wilson oilfield-equipment distribution business for $800 million. This acquisition could be a great benefit for National, considering it will double its distribution footprint and complement National's already outstanding product portfolio.

Foolish bottom line
National's prospects look exciting. While there is a great deal of uncertainty as the European debt crisis unfolds, this company's solid business and presence around the globe make it a good bet. Investors should watch this company like a hawk, and The Motley Fool can help: All you need to do is add the company to your free personalized Watchlist.

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Fool contributor Isac Simon owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of National Oilwell Varco. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Petrobras, Schlumberger, and National Oilwell Varco. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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