Back in March, I stated that Halliburton (NYSE: HAL ) was a serious steal (seriously). With the stock at close to $33 per share, I was confident the market wasn't appreciating the company's global scale and full service nature. Let's review the thesis behind the investment.
Unconventional markets: As the largest provider of fracking services, Halliburton has a tremendous advantage with its experience in the field. Although it's in the early stages, Halliburton's "Frac of the Future" initiative is showing encouraging results. Between China, the U.S., Argentina and Mexico alone, there are more than 3.5 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas reserves.
International markets continue to remain undercapitalized, with an overwhelming majority of pressure pumping equipment located in North America. Management is making a concerted effort to bring this situation back to parity with a pullback in North America versus additional placement internationally, where much of the supply (and demand) exists.
Deepwater: While deepwater exploration tends to ebb and flow with prevailing economics in the short term, long-term thinking is still geared toward increased exploration. Deepwater well services spending, which clocked in at about $8 billion in 2011, should finish 2012 at about $12 billion and is expected to continue to grow over the next five years at close to 18% annually. Companies such as Seadrill (NYSE: SDRL ) and Atwood Oceanics (NYSE: ATW ) are examples of drillers spending in the space. With the majority of this spending expected to tilt more toward development (Halliburton's bread and butter), there looks to be plenty of opportunity in the years to come.
Mature fields: Halliburton is taking advantage of its broad scale and strategic acquisitions to serve the historically underserved mature fields market. After a well reaches maturity, there is still a long curve of service required, from redevelopment to infilling to CO2 injection, which takes many years to play out. The acquisition of Boots and Coots was specifically geared toward mature field redevelopment, and the 2011 acquisition of Multi-Chem brought even more vertical integration into the company as the fourth largest provider of production chemicals in North America.
It's not a lock
Many of the risks I mentioned before are still true today. Any long-term crimp in the demand for oil will keep a lid on the company's earnings potential. The Macondo oil spill is still working its way through litigation on multiple fronts, and while rulings thus far have gone Halliburton's way, there is still a potential litigation risk outstanding.
Recently, management locked in a large amount of guar, a substance commonly used in fracking, at a higher price based on what looked like a supply issue that was coming to light. Shortly after, however, supply concerns eased and guar prices declined, leaving Halliburton stuck with the more expensive guar, a cost that management more or less had to eat, as they couldn't risk passing it on to their customers. While I applaud management's decision to put the customer first, it's a strong reminder that Halliburton is extremely susceptible to fluctuating commodity costs and needs to manage things wisely.
The Foolish bottom line
The fundamental story with Halliburton hasn't changed; in fact, it may be stronger than ever. It sits at just over 10 times earnings -- the market is looking at this leader from a very short-sighted perspective, and that's fine by me. I still see shares easily worth $55 in a more "energy positive" environment, so I'm adding another position to my Real Money portfolio. This is a longer-term bet that demand for oil will creep back up, but I'm ready to kick back and watch it play out with a market leader in the portfolio. Make sure to drop me a Tweet and let me know what you think.
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