What happened

Shares of energy services provider Helix Energy Solutions (NYSE:HLX) fell just over 10% in the first few minutes of trading on July 27. The main driver for the swift decline was the company's after-the-close earnings release on July 26. Investors had plenty of reason to be upset.

So what

Helix Energy Solutions posted revenue of roughly $162 million in the second quarter of 2021, down from a touch more than $199 million in the same quarter of 2020. That's a nearly 19% decline.

The energy company lost $0.09 per share in the quarter, a notable drop from its $0.04 profit in the second quarter last year. And adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) fell almost 50% year over year in the quarter.

A person holding their head with a candlestick chart heading lower in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

In fairness, Helix Energy Solutions managed to increase the amount of cash flow it generated, but it would be hard to call the second-quarter performance good. In fact, CEO Owen Kratz specifically noted that, "As expected, 2021 remains a challenging year."

Unfortunately, he also pointed out that a reprieve isn't expected until 2022. And even there, his wording wasn't particularly inspiring, as he explained that improving industry conditions "could yield benefits" next year. Given the quarterly performance and so-so outlook, it's not surprising that investors were downbeat.

Now what

Helix Energy Solutions operates in the highly cyclical energy-services sector. Its performance is really tied to capital-spending plans in the exploration and production space. That said, the supply/demand trends in the energy sector remain difficult to discern because of the coronavirus, so drillers have been reluctant to spend, despite improving oil prices.

Until that changes, Helix Energy Solutions will likely continue to struggle. Most investors would probably be better off looking elsewhere in the energy patch for investment opportunities today.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.