After hitting an all-time high of $74.33 back in July, shares of Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) have dropped like a shale stone to as low as $47.60 alongside collapsing oil prices. Is the oil boom over for companies like Halliburton, or is the recent dip an opportunity to consider grabbing discounted shares? Here are three things that could make Halliburton a rising star once again.
Reason No. 1: "Cheap" oil still isn't cheap
According to many industry experts, the slide from $100 to $80 per barrel won't make a dent in oil production rates anywhere. Sure, most oil producers would prefer $100, $150, or even $200 oil, but what they prefer isn't necessarily what will stop them from producing. The same experts think oil can fall another $20 to $60 per barrel without any material effect.
But if oil prices start raising again, it certainly wouldn't hurt suppliers such as Halliburton and would probably help investor confidence, which, in turn, would reward it with a higher stock price. The Catch-22 from all of this is that we're supposedly seeing cheap oil prices from fracking, so if fracking were to slow down, then oil prices would go back up and make fracking itself enticing again. One thing we know is that our appetite for oil volume isn't going away, and the increasing needs of the industry will need more equipment services.
Reason No. 2: Contracts and more business are on the way
According to a Halliburton presentation in September, around 92% to 93% of its business is contracted. A big portion of the contracts came up for renewal recently, and the company has said it is not only successful in renewing its contracts but is also doing so at higher prices to cover future "expected" inflation, and then a price increase of pure profit on top of that.
It sounds more like Halliburton is a company that's a price maker rather than a price taker and negotiates from a position of power despite falling energy prices. With new higher rate contracts, revenue and profits are virtually assured regardless of energy prices in the near and medium term. In the most recent call, the year 2015 was mentioned a dozen or two times, as the company spoke of growth in just about any area of the world, including (perhaps especially) among the North American fracking industry.
Keep in mind that averages with costs for producers are just averages. People and companies tend to be optimistic in their industries and aren't quick to pack up and go home every time there's a sudden downtick in oil prices, especially when 80% of fracking work is said to be breakeven or better with oil prices under $60. Companies may even be tempted to explore and spend more to get the volumes needed to make up for lost profit margins. Halliburton could benefit as more companies come to it for help.
Reason No. 3: It's raining cash for shareholders
Last quarter, Halliburton raised its quarterly dividend by 20% to $0.18 per share. It has now doubled its quarterly dividend over the past two years. On top of that, it bought back $300 million of stock last quarter and still has $5.7 billion left in its authorization. Few things speak more about confidence in the future than a company that's willing to part with so much cash.
With the cheaper stock price, it also means Halliburton can buy and retire that many more shares. Having few shares outstanding raises earnings per share, cash flow per share, and the chances of further dividend increases, as the overall dividend payout is cheaper when there are fewer slices of the pie to pay out to.
There is always risk with any company, but between an overblown panic over cheap oil prices negatively affecting Halliburton and its ability to return even greater value per share now than just a couple of months ago, shares of Halliburton may be heading up from here.