How to Capitalize on Deepwater and Subsea Drilling Trends

Despite advances in alternative energy and reduced demand from a slowed global economy, developed and emerging nations still need oil, and lots of it. Major oil companies, such as ExxonMobil, continue to look to deepwater and subsea fields to grow future oil supply. These untapped reserves are driving capital spending that is expected to double by 2017. Specifically, floating rig and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) counts are expected to grow by 30% annually and subsea tree orders by 65% annually. Well-run oil service companies stand to benefit from this increased deepwater and subsea capital spending.

One company well positioned for subsea and deepwater trends
With leading market positions in the both deepwater and subsea, Oceaneering International (NYSE: OII  ) is well positioned to capitalize on this trend, which is expected to last at least through 2017. In the deepwater, Oceaneering International operates 36% of the worldwide ROVs fleet (289 ROVs) and provides drill support to 59% of the contracted floating rigs. It is also a leader in specialty subsea products, including umbilicals, hardware, workover control systems, and tooling and work systems.

In addition to having a strong position in a growing market, Oceaneering International has solid financial performance. Oceaneering International has excellent cash flow, liquidity and growing earnings per share. As of 30 September, 2013, Oceaneering International had $102 million in cash, $40 million in debt and $2 billion in equity. This should put it in a good position to meet growing market demands. Earnings per share trends and solid operating margins show management is executing well. EPS is growing steadily, from $1.70 in 2009 to an estimated $4.00 in 2014. This type of EPS growth has the company outperforming the oil service index since 2008.

I don't believe in trying to time the market, but I do believe in capitalizing on opportunities as they arise. I think a recent pullback in oil services presents an opportunity for long-term investors wanting to capitalize on these deepwater and subsea capital spending trends. Oceaneering International was up over 45% in 2013, but is 10% off its high. With a strong financial position, a history of good execution and a leading market position, I think Oceaneering International still has room to grow.

Risk and when to sell
What would change my mind? Because Oceaneering International generates more than 75% of its revenue and operating income from ROVs and subsea segments, we need to watch these trends. Decreasing backlogs might be a warning sign. A negative trend in operating margins, market share, or earnings per share could also be red flags. I monitor these each quarter.

Other well-positioned companies
Other options to capitalize on subsea and deepwater trends include Transocean Ltd (NYSE: RIG  ) and National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV  ) . Transocean has the world's largest rig fleet, with a portfolio that contains deepwater, midwater, and jack-up rigs. More than 50% of its rigs are deepwater, making Transocean another way to invest in offshore trends. A positive sign for Transocean is its growing backlog, up from $27.3 billion in July to $29.8 billion in October. Another positive is its recent history of dividend growth -- $2.24 in 2013 to an expected $3 in 2014. Foolish investors should monitor the backlog and their ability to maintain or increase dividends going forward.

National Oilwell Varco gear is in most oil-service equipment, including deepwater floating rigs and production systems. LikeTransocean, National Oilwell Varco has growing backlogs, reporting a record $15 billion backlog in Q3 2013.  Analysts are expecting this growing backlog to translate into earnings growth of more than 15% in 2014 (estimates of $6.25 in 2014 compared to $5.36 in 2013. Again, backlogs should be monitored to watch for a change in these favorable trends. 

The best play on deepwater drilling?
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