What happened

Shares of offshore energy services provider Helix Energy Solutions (HLX -1.66%) rose as much as 16% in the first half hour of trading on Oct. 22. Although the shares quickly cooled down, they were still up around 10% at 10:30 a.m. EDT. The share-price jump was all about earnings.

So what

Helix reported third-quarter revenue of $193.5 million, down from $212.6 million in the same period of 2019. Earnings came in at $0.16 a share, down from $0.21 last year. Those aren't exactly great numbers, but you have to take into account the impact that COVID-19 is having on oil prices and demand in the energy sector. With the industry facing material headwinds, Helix Energy's customers have pulled back on spending. And, despite these facts, investors were still upbeat on the quarterly earnings update...   

An offshore drilling rig

Image source: Getty Images.

You need to step back to the second quarter to understand why Helix Energy's third-quarter results were so positive. For example, while third-quarter revenue was still a touch lower than the $199 million it earned in the second quarter, earnings were just $0.04 per share in the second quarter. In other words, the third quarter showed that the company's efforts to trim costs appear to be working. Helix also managed to beat Wall Street expectations on the top and bottom line. So, the energy services company looks like it's handling the current headwinds in stride. Investors are right to be positive about that.  

Now what

Helix Energy's CEO, Owen Kratz, pointed out in the earnings release that, "COVID-19 continues to affect us, both in our operations and customer demand for our services, and we expect this to persist until the pandemic is resolved." So while today's news was indeed good reading, the company is still working hard to muddle through what is a very difficult period for energy companies. With no solution to COVID-19 in sight, the only thing investors can really count on from here is continued volatility, likely driven by both company-specific and industrywide news.