Shares of Midland, Texas-based Dawson Geophysical (NASDAQ:DWSN) were treading water in midday Wednesday trading, after the seismic data oil explorer announced fourth-quarter and full-year fiscal 2013 earnings that blew past analyst estimates for revenue but fell far short on earnings.
Revenue at Dawson came to $69.7 million for the quarter, about a 5% drop from last year's fourth quarter, but enough to soundly beat estimates of $51.4 million. Dawson closes out the year with a similar expectations-beating revenue of $305.3 million.
On the earnings side, the company was not expected to book a profit this quarter. Yet the size of its reported loss -- $0.35 per share -- took the market by surprise, as analysts had predicted only an $0.08 loss.
Dawson blamed "project readiness issues due to agricultural operations in key regions, weather delays, land access permit issues and a softness in bid activity during the third fiscal quarter of 2013" for its inability to put more crews to work in the quarter. The situation resulted in lower "utilization" rates for its crews, along with the resulting weak revenue and earnings. During the quarter, only eight of Dawson's 13 crews on hand were actually put to work.
Going forward, Dawson says it anticipates putting all 13 crews back to work, resulting in "full utilization" of its capacity "by the middle of the [current] first fiscal quarter of 2014." Investors appear to be giving management the benefit of the doubt on that, with Dawson shares generally trading above pre-earnings levels today.