Oilfield service giant Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) is expected to report its second-quarter results before the market opens on Monday, July 20. The report isn't expected to be all that strong, as the oil market is still in the middle of a downturn. However, Halliburton is better equipped to handle troubling times, suggesting that the quarter shouldn't be a total disappointment. That said, there are three things to watch that will likely drive the stock's reaction to the results.
First, let's review
Last quarter, Halliburton delivered surprisingly strong results, despite the fact that the first quarter was deeply affected by the downturn in the oil market. The company's revenue of $7.1 billion was down only slightly year over year and beat analysts' estimates. To top that off, the company's earnings of $0.49 per share also beat estimates by $0.12 per share, after adjusting for several downturn-driven one-time items. That said, earnings were down quite significantly year over year as it was a challenging quarter for the company, though its results were about as good as could be expected given the market malaise.
1. Halliburton vs. the analysts
The second quarter was expected to be even more challenging for Halliburton, warning in its first-quarter earnings release that "industry prospects will continue to be challenged in the coming quarters, and visibility to the ultimate depth and length of this cycle remains uncertain." Analysts expect that challenging market to push revenue down to $5.8 billion, with earnings slipping to $0.29 per share. Both would be well off last year's second quarter, when the company delivered record revenue of $8.1 billion and earnings of $0.73 per share.
What investors will want to watch is how Halliburton's actual results compare to analysts' expectations. An earnings beat would suggest that it is doing a better job of both controlling costs while pushing back against customer demands for lower service costs.
2. Is it losing ground by standing its ground?
The steep drop in oil prices has oil companies putting pressure on oil-field service providers to give them a break on costs. Some of Halliburton's peers are running their assets at, and sometimes below, cost in order to keep their customers happy. While Halliburton is experiencing similar pricing pressure, it refuses to join its peers in running at cost.
What investors will want to see is whether that plan worked or backfired. Is Halliburton starting to lose market share to peers or did it cave to customer demands at the expense of margins? If Halliburton does miss estimates, it's likely that margin pressure from falling services prices are at fault.
3. Its outlook for the oil market
The final area investors should keep an eye on is Halliburton's outlook on the oil market. As it does each quarter, the management team provides an update on this. It should interest investors if there is any change to its prior outlook, which suggested that the downturn was nearing a bottom, though the company was reluctant to call it that just yet.
We want to see management say that it either saw an improvement in drilling activity or can see one on the horizon, suggesting that pricing pressure, and therefore margin compression, should abate while activity should improve, leading to a higher volume of work for the company.
Halliburton isn't expected to deliver stellar results when it reports on Monday, as the oil market downturn is still in full swing. However, the company could still surprise investors if it saw a pickup in activity during the quarter. Furthermore, a more bullish outlook for the rest of 2015 would be a welcome sign for investors as it would suggest that the worst is in the rearview mirror.