Do you despise fat profits and double-digit free cash flow margins? Does it really get your goat when companies incentivize their executives to maximize return on invested capital (ROIC)? Do you detest dividends and other returns of excess cash back to shareholders? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you probably won't be interested in Core Laboratories
You won't care that the oil and gas reservoir optimization shop sported a 16% free cash flow margin in the fourth quarter, or that free cash flow for the year jumped 32%, to $164.6 million. You will not be interested to know that Core Labs' ROIC runs about three times the peer group average -- a group that includes firms like Schlumberger
OK, I'm guessing you don't actually hate these things. But given that Core Labs only trades a little over 200,000 shares per day, it sometimes feels like no one cares much for the company's many outstanding characteristics. I'm going to keep talking about them anyway. There's a reason this stock is up roughly 20-fold from its IPO.
Much like equipment provider National Oilwell Varco
Since 2002, the company has returned over $760 million in excess capital to shareholders in one form or another. This is a remarkable figure for a company with a market cap of under $3 billion. After reducing net debt nearly 72% over the past year, Core Labs still had a record high cash balance at year-end.
From reservoir damage remediation in Iraq, to studying hydrocarbon potential in the Gulf of Guinea, to helping to fracture shale plays in North America and elsewhere, Core Labs is going to be very busy in the years ahead. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that long-term shareholders are going to be very happy in the years ahead as well.