The Stock Picker's Guide to BP

LONDON -- Successful investors use a disciplined approach to picking stocks, and checklists can be a great way to make sure you've covered all the bases.

In this series I'm subjecting companies to scrutiny under five headings: prospects, performance, management, safety and valuation. How does BP  (LSE: BP  ) (NYSE: BP  ) measure up?

1. Prospects
The fortunes of Western oil majors are determined by the price of oil, production costs and success in the capital-hungry and risky exploration activity. Geopolitics and the global economy drive supply and demand for oil.

BP's recent history exemplifies the geopolitical dimensions, from the machinations of oligarchs and politicians in Russia to criminal and civil suits in the U.S.

BP is close to completing a $38 billion disposal program, which will reduce production and reserves by 10%, focus future production on higher-margin assets and release cash. Its future business model depends on:

  • Improved profitability and cash flow from remaining assets: Q1 results were encouraging;
  • Its near 20% stake in Russian state-controlled oil major Rosneft;
  • Satisfactory resolution of the Macondo liabilities.

BP's Russian relationship gives it a stake in the world's largest oil producer, with the upside potential to add to reserves through collaboration in the Russian Arctic.

2. Performance
The slimmed-down business aims to bring new projects on-stream at double 2011's average margin, and to achieve $30 billion of operating cash flow by 2014, 50% more than 2011 (assuming a $100/bbl oil price).

3. Management
CEO Bob Dudley is a veteran American oil man who served as TNK-BP's CEO in Russia before being forced out of the country. He used his Russian expertise to seal BP's Rosneft deal, but has operational as well as deal-making credentials: TNK-BP increased its output by a third under his leadership.

4. Safety
Outstanding liabilities for the Macondo disaster hang over BP. The company has provided $42 billion in total, with the maximum potential liability roughly equal to BP's £90 billion market cap.

The company has political risk in Russia, where it could suffer if it fell out of favor with the administration. The investigation into oil price-fixing could potentially grow to LIBOR-scandal proportions.

BP's balance sheet is relatively strong, with net gearing (debt: net assets) of 25%, higher than Shell's 10%, so the strong cash flow and surplus debt capacity could cover the worst-case U.S. scenario.

5. Valuation
The shares have recovered about half the ground lost since the Macondo disaster, buoyed by an $8 billion share buy-back program to counter the earnings dilution of the Rosneft transaction.

The projected price-to-earnings ratio of 8.9 is slightly higher than Shell's 8.5, while the yields are similar at around 5%. BP's price to tangible net worth is 1.8, higher than Shell's 1.3.

BP stock reflects the playing-for-high-stakes character of its CEO. There's a big upside in Russia if all goes according to plan, but substantial risk until the U.S. liabilities are all settled.

If you're looking to diversify your oil and gas investments, I recommend you read the Motley Fool's report: "How to Unearth Great Oil and Gas Stocks". It's packed full of tips, and you can download it by clicking here -- it's free.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2450165, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/30/2016 4:27:55 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,308.15 164.70 0.91%
S&P 500 2,168.27 17.14 0.80%
NASD 5,312.00 42.85 0.81%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/30/2016 4:04 PM
BP $35.16 Up +0.10 +0.29%
BP CAPS Rating: ****
BP $449.12 Down -1.88 -0.42%
BP CAPS Rating: No stars