Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB ) supplies technology, integrated project management, and information solutions to the oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) industry worldwide.
Today, let's look at three things investors should be watching regarding Schlumberger, as they'll provide us better insight into the company.
1. Offshore drilling demand
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident was both a tragedy for those who lost their lives and a reminder that drilling is still a highly technical and dangerous industry. The deepwater drilling moratorium that followed the oil spill was crippling to the bottom lines of many deepwater oil and gas E&P companies as well as to backbone support teams like Schlumberger that rely on strong offshore demand to drive growth. It's therefore imperative to keep an eye on offshore drilling demand in the Gulf of Mexico and worldwide, as that will give investors an indication as to where Schlumberger may be headed.
The good news for Schlumberger is that worldwide demand for rigs is actually outpacing supply, providing Schlumberger with ample projects. Also, according to Gulf of Mexico deepwater specialist Ensco (NYSE: ESV ) , it's almost fully operational once again, just two years after the accident. In short, understanding the demand for offshore drilling will get you off to a great start in understanding how profitable Schlumberger can be.
2. New technologies
When you think of oil drilling, you probably aren't thinking about cutting-edge technologies, but in terms of oil service companies, you absolutely should! More than anything, what separates one oil service company from another is its technological innovation.
Earlier this month, Schlumberger announced the introduction of its IsoMetrix marine seismic technology, which will be used to further strengthen its market-leading marine seismic business. The technology is targeted at supporting more complex and costly exploration projects and, as such, gives Schlumberger substantial pricing power.
However, keep in mind that Schlumberger isn't the only oil-service company with game-changing technologies. Halliburton's (NYSE: HAL ) proprietary CleanSuite System Technologies allows for more efficient hydraulic fracking while also conserving water and recycling it at the well site. And don't forget about Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI ) , which last year introduced new fracking technology of its own and launched its GeoForm sand-management system to improve drilling efficiency and reduce the risks associated with sand shifting around a borehole.
Knowing what technology is available is a key component to understanding the oil service sector and Schlumberger.
3. Legal implications
I very easily could have gone with crude oil and natural gas prices here, as high prices drive E&P capital spending while low prices curb spending -- but I sort of thought that was too obvious.
Instead, with oil service companies introducing new technologies regularly, patent infringement and other legal actions are the final factor worth keeping an eye on.
Schlumberger has been lucky enough that it's been relatively unscathed in the lawsuit department. Don't get me wrong: It has been sued. It's just that the magnitude of those lawsuits have been minimal. Take, on the other hand, BP (NYSE: BP ) , which is suing both Halliburton and Transocean for their roles in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Lawsuits in the oil service sector aren't likely to bankrupt a company, but they can absolutely impede profits and the subsequent developing of new technologies.
Now that you know what to watch for, it should be easier to analyze Schlumberger's successes and pitfalls in the future, and hopefully you'll gain a competitive investing edge.
If you're still craving even more info on Schlumberger, I would recommend adding the stock to your free and personalized Watchlist so you can keep up on all of the latest news with the company.
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