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With Margins Still Declining, is Schlumberger Ltd. Losing its Crown?

By Motley Fool Staff - Feb 29, 2016 at 11:45AM

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A look into Schlumberger’s earnings call (and why they’re not expecting much anytime soon).

Schlumberger's (SLB -0.31%) earning call is in, and while the company did better than some other big energy players, things aren't looking great for 2016.

In this clip, The Motley Fool's Tyler Crowe, Sean O'Reilly, and Taylor Muckerman go over the company's bleak numbers and the reasons behind them, and why execs aren't expecting a recovery until 2017 at the earliest.

A transcript follows the video.


This podcast was recorded on Jan. 28, 2016.

Tyler Crowe: If you want to call Core Labs the optimist, I guess Schlumberger was a little bit more of the pessimist. On the earnings basis, kind of the same thing, some low hurdles to jump over. Or, actually, not jump over. Their fourth-quarter revenue was down about 9% compared to, actually, last quarter. Pretext margins are down to about 16%, which doesn't sound great, considering that over a year ago, they were in the high 20s.

Sean O'Reilly: Are they having to cut --

Taylor Muckerman: Core Labs has the same margin.

O'Reilly: -- prices? Why is that?

Crowe: A lot of it has to do with activity decline in a certain sense, where if you look at like the land rig market in the United States, there's only about 680-690 rigs, compared to 1,500, 1,600 that we had --

O'Reilly: A year ago, yeah.

Crowe: -- Eightheen months ago. So, you have that, of just, idled, and lack of sales. But you're also seeing one of the things that CEO Paal Kibsgaard actually did mention, is that they're seeing lower prices on contracts. Certainly ExxonMobil and Chevron have mentioned this, where they're getting about 15% to 25% savings on their surface contracts, in terms of their day rates and things like that.

So that's where you're starting to see a lot of the declines in margins and sales. On that 16%, it doesn't sounds great coming down from the high 20s, but putting it in a little perspective, if you compare them to Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Weatherford International, they still have at least seven to eight points higher on their pretext margins. So they're having a good time in comparison to the rest. It's not great, but, you know.

And on their outlook, a little bit of echoes of Core. Not as optimistic. They were saying that in 2016, in the second half, we'll start to see that recovery in oil prices. But they're saying it won't lead to increased drilling and surface activity --

O'Reilly: There's going to be some conservatism, yeah.

Crowe: -- until 2017. And one of the biggest reasons was the fact that a lot of these producers have obliterated balance sheets, and they've got to throw some cash back at the business itself before they're ready to take on anything new.

O'Reilly: Plus, it's like, we're at $30 right now. Even if it went back to $60, there would be, "OK, is this for real?" Because we flirted with that last spring, and ...

Crowe: Yeah, last spring, we went to $60, and ... not everybody, but there was a small handful of companies that wanted to open the pipes up again. I know Pioneer Natural Resources was one of them. And it just backfired on them.

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