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Energy Keeps Hurting Earnings at FMC Technologies

By Dan Caplinger - Feb 16, 2016 at 7:40PM

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Poor crude prices are holding back the drilling-services specialist.


Image: FMC Technologies.

The downturn in the oil and gas industry has been harsher than nearly anyone expected, and companies that provide services to drillers have taken a huge hit. FMC Technologies (FTI 1.30%) doesn't have the size or standing that industry giant Schlumberger (SLB -2.14%) has, but both companies have seen their shares slide along with oil prices and continue to see challenges in 2016. Coming into Tuesday's fourth-quarter financial report, FMC investors were prepared for declines in its financial results, but the size of the drops in revenue and earnings turned out to be larger than even those downbeat predictions. Let's look more closely at how FMC Technologies performed to finish 2015 and see if we can find any highlights suggesting a quick turnaround this year.

Waiting for a turnaround at FMC Technologies
FMC Technologies' fourth-quarter report looked like more of the same from the energy-services provider. Revenue dropped by more than a third to $1.43 billion, which was even worse than the 28% decline that most investors were prepared to see. On the earnings front, net income plunged by more than two-thirds to $55.6 million, and even after making allowances for charges, adjusted earnings of $0.46 per share were $0.02 less than the consensus forecast among investors.

FMC couldn't find any relief from any of its major segments. Sales from its Subsea Technologies division were down 29%, and even though the dollar's strength had a huge impact on the decline, FMC would still have reported a 20% drop in revenue on a constant-currency basis. Similarly, Subsea operating profit fell by nearly half when you include restructuring and impairment charges. Reduced activity in the North Sea and higher research and development spending also affected results.

Meanwhile, the Surface Technologies segment saw a steeper 46% drop in quarterly revenue. FMC pointed to a drop of more than half in rig counts in North America, which paced the overall decline. The division posted a modest operating loss of $7.3 million, and even after accounting for one-time charges, adjusted operating profit was down by nearly three-quarters compared to the year-ago period. The relatively small Energy Infrastructure segment also struggled, with a 30% drop in revenue and an operating loss of $3 million.

Inbound orders also continued to dry up, falling by nearly two-thirds on an overall basis. The worst declines were in the subsea arena, but surface technologies also saw drops of nearly half from the fourth quarter of 2014. Backlogs were down by about a third to $4.36 billion, with subsea technologies along taking a $2 billion hit.

Can an energy turnaround help FMC Technologies?
CEO John Gremp did his best to keep shareholders focused on the future. "Lower oil prices and greater uncertainty around operator cash flows are driving another year of customer spending reductions," Gremp said, but "we remain intensely focused on what we can control and are taking unprecedented restructuring actions." The CEO's hope is that those moves will cut costs and help keep FMC profitable.

FMC Technologies isn't the only company seeing pressure from a weak energy market. Schlumberger reported in January that it suffered from poor financial results because of the poor market for oil and gas production, including a 39% plunge in revenue and a 58% hit to net income from continuing operations. Schlumberger also anticipated what it called "extended activity weakness in the first half of 2016" and took action of its own to respond to poor conditions, including workforce reductions and streamlining of its internal structure.

For FMC Technologies' stock to do better, the company desperately needs to see oil and gas producers get back to work, and that will take a bottoming in the oil market and signs of potential gains in the long run. As long as the oil market keeps plunging to new lows, nervous energy investors will be in no rush to commit new capital to the industry, and that could hold back FMC Technologies for a while longer.

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Schlumberger Limited Stock Quote
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