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This business week will end on Friday. Big deal, you say. Friday has capped off all commercial weeks since time immemorial. This one, however, will be just a little more informative for investors with interests in energy.
In a real sense, reporting season for the sector began on January 18 (also a Friday), when oil-field services major domo Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB ) took center stage and told us about its December quarter. Now, on the first day of February, three of the industry's key companies -- ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) , and National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV ) -- will all step forward to fill us in on their goings on and, more importantly, describe their sense of where the global world of hydrocarbons discovery and production may be headed.
ExxonMobil's up first
Let's begin with ExxonMobil, in a sort of size-before-beauty ordering. The big company is expected by the analysts who follow it to report per-share earnings in the vicinity of $2.00, up very slightly from last year's comparable $1.97. The consensus prediction for its quarterly revenues is $115.22 billion, down from the $121.61 billion top line figure for the final quarter of 2011. And, where the worlds of quality and quantity meet for the company, it's at least marginally meaningful that, of the 22 analysts with opinions on Exxon, fully 13, or nearly 60%, rate the company a "Hold."
As always, a key figure that will emanate from the reporting session will be the company's liquids production for the quarter. In the September period, Exxon's liquids output averaged 2.12 million barrels per day, down by 133,000 daily barrels from 2011's last quarter.
As is typically the case with the wide-ranging company, its information on recent activities and events will constitute something of a lesson in geography. For instance, during the final month of the quarter, ExxonMobil and its new Russian partner Rosneft advanced their relationship by executing a Declaration on Protection of the Environment and Biodiversity. The document relates to the Russian Arctic, where the two companies are preparing to begin joint exploratory efforts.
Further, the company announced during the quarter that it will begin exploration activities offshore South Africa. And, as the current quarter began, ExxonMobil said it would begin developing the Hebron oil field offshore Canada's Newfoundland and Labrador.
Followed by Chevron
Chevron, the second largest of the U.S.-based integrated oil and gas companies, is expected to report per-share results near $3.04, or about 18% above the $2.58 it earned for each share in the fourth quarter of 2011. The consensus expectation for quarterly revenues is $68.64 billion, up 14% from the $59.98 billion top-line figure generated in the same quarter in the prior year. Of the 23 analysts who have published ratings on Chevron, 17, or 74%, accord the company at least a "Buy."
Chevron is also on the move geographically. As the current quarter began, the company said that a subsidiary had entered into production sharing contracts with China's CNOOC (NYSE: CEO ) covering two exploration blocks in the South China Sea's Pearl River Mouth Basin.
In addition, just last week, the California company disclosed that, through a subsidiary, it had sighted agreements with Morocco's office of mines involving three areas off the country's coast. I would note that heading west from Morocco -- which is separate from Europe only by the Strait of Gibraltar -- one encounters Algeria, Libya, and Egypt, in that order. None of these countries represents a bastion of stability at this juncture.
And then by National Oilwell Varco
As a member of the oil-field services set, National Oilwell Varco involves significantly different metrics and considerations from those of ExxonMobil and Chevron. Nevertheless, a company with market share to burn in the rapidly expanding world of rig construction, and the manufacture of components for the units, the company is of utmost importance. As a result, it likely will garner substantial attention vis-a-vis its earnings release and post-release call on Friday.
Analysts who follow the company have formed a consensus of $1.44 in per-share earnings for the quarter, or slightly more than 5% above last year's comparable $1.37. Revenues are expected to come in at about $5.30 billion, or approximately 24% higher than the $4.26 billion recorded in the final quarter of 2011. Of the 30 analysts who have published expectations on Varco, all but five, or 83%, rate the company at least a "Buy."
There are two other comments that I'll add as they relate to significant items from the company's release and conference call. First, Varco has consistently raised its backlog during recent quarters, with most of the business involved targeted for international venues. A continuation of that trend would be meaningful for the company, as will management's thoughts on the mergers and acquisitions picture.
Second, there are few corporate executives who truly shine at imparting information about industry macro trends as they discuss their companies results. National Oilwell Varco's CFO Clay Williams is one of the few who does, and so I'd urge Fools to be attentive to his comments during the company's conference call.
A Foolish takeaway
There will, of course, be a variety of energy companies primed to report their quarterly results after Friday. For instance, one of my favorites, EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG ) , will report in about two weeks. The importance of Friday, however, is that on no other day in the current earnings season will it be as possible for Fools to garner such a wide array of information on energy trends.
National Oilwell Varco, which is key to this article, is perhaps the safest investment in the energy sector, due to its industry-leading 60% market share. This company is poised to profit in a big way; its customers are both increasing the number of new drilling rigs, as well as updating an aging fleet of offshore rigs. To help determine if NOV is a nice fit for your portfolio, check out our premium research report with in-depth analysis on whether NOV is a buy today. For instant access to this valuable investor's resource, simply click here now and claim your copy today.