It goes without saying that this is a difficult time for energy companies. Oil prices have collapsed over the past few months. Profits for oil and gas companies are down as a result, and stock prices declined as well. With that in mind, it might seem foolish to consider an energy company right now. But Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) is no ordinary energy company. Schlumberger isn't an oil and gas company in the traditional sense; instead, it offers technology services and solutions for oil and gas companies. In a way, it's much closer to a consulting company.
As such, Schlumberger's results aren't as reliant on the price of oil as many other companies in the energy sector. Schlumberger proved as much when it reported third-quarter earnings which were quite solid. Here are five things management said in its conference call that you should know.
A record quarter
"Our third quarter results set a new record for Schlumberger, driven by North America and further backed by robust international performance."—Paal Kibsgaard, CEO
Revenue grew 4% sequentially and 9% year over year, indicating strong continued demand for Schlumberger's technology. This flies in the face of fears surrounding a slowdown because of lower oil prices. Every one of Schlumberger's operating segments registered growth last quarter. In addition, growth was spread between North America and international markets. Overseas, growth was led by Latin America and Europe.
"Third quarter earnings per share from continuing operations was $1.49."—Simon Ayat, CFO
Schlumberger posted earnings that were 9% higher than the previous quarter and 16% higher year over year. This is very strong growth considering the stiff headwind of lower commodity prices that weighed on the energy sector for most of the past quarter.
Third-quarter performance led by onshore
"Production group revenue of $4.7 billion increased 8.1%"—Ayat
Of Schlumberger's core operating segments, its production group put up the best growth last quarter. This was because of continued well activity, most significantly in the United States. Schlumberger's customers kept onshore production going strong last quarter. One of Schlumberger's better-performing solutions in North America last quarter was artificial lift sales.
Timing of share repurchases could have been better
"During the quarter, we repurchased 13.9 million shares at an average price of $108.41."—Ayat
Schlumberger's current share price is around $97, which means the company's share buybacks were poorly timed last quarter. Of course, no management team can outright predict its own stock price, so this can be forgiven. Plus, it's always a good sign to see a company return lots of cash to shareholders, which Schlumberger certainly does. In addition to its aggressive buybacks, the company also rewards shareholders with a dividend. The stock yields 1.6%.
"Significant liquidity events during the quarter included $1.5 billion of stock repurchases, $519 million of dividend payments and $980 million of CapEx"—Ayat
Schlumberger maintains a solid balance of how it utilizes cash flow, which is a good sign. Management effectively accomplishes each of the major capital allocation goals, which are to buy back stock, pay a dividend, and invest enough in the business to spur future growth. These are each important steps to reward shareholders both in the present and in the future.
While investing in anything energy-related seems ridiculous considering the steep decline in oil prices over the past several weeks, Schlumberger is a unique story. Schlumberger is a provider of technology services and solutions to the oil and gas industry. Its customers aren't slowing down production as you'd assume given the tough operating climate. Instead, demand for Schlumberger's unique solutions is as high as ever, evident by Schlumberger's record quarter. Not surprisingly, management had very good things to say about the present and the future, which should give a lot of confidence to shareholders.
Bob Ciura has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.