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Helix Energy Solutions Shares Surged 44% in March. Here's Why.

By Tyler Crowe - Apr 5, 2016 at 8:55AM

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Better-than-expected earnings leading up to the month, a little love from oil prices, and an analyst upgrade combined to give Helix's shares a hefty boost last month.

Image source: Helix Energy Solutions investor presentation.

What: Shares of Helix Energy Solutions (HLX -1.18%) climbed 43.6% in March, following a February earnings report that was better than expected and an analyst upgrade.

So what: Ever since the company reported earnings on Feb. 22, shares have been on an upward trend. You could argue that part of it has to do with prices giving shares a much-needed boost -- the price of Brent crude increased from $32 per barrel to close to $39 over that time period -- but one thing that's also giving the company's shares promise is that the company's outlook for 2016 doesn't look as dire as some of its oil services peers.

Management stated on its recent investor presentation that its newest well intervention rig started work for BP on April 1, and that another one of its vessels under construction will start work for Petrobras in the third quarter once complete. Unlike many other rig contractors that are struggling to get new work in the offshore environment, Helix's fleet of vessels is designed to do well intervention work that repairs, maintains, and shuts in existing wells. Not only is maintenance work necessary for well integrity, but well intervention projects can also help boost returns on existing assets for little capital spending. These sort of quick-hit investments will probably remain popular in 2016, with the price of oil remaining so low. 

Now what: The one thing that may give investors pause for shares of Helix is that the company is still pretty beholden to the price of oil and the amount of money that producers want to spend on production. With spending across the sector drying up fast, contract rates for Helix's services are declining. To maintain certain levels of profitability, the company will need to be able to keep its fleet running at a high utilization rate. 

As low as stock prices are today and Helix's business model that suggests it can weather the storm of oil prices, there are still some questions that Helix needs to answer before investors should take any action with this stock. First and foremost, the company needs to show that it can generate profits on a more consistent basis, something that hasn't happened since before the financial crisis in 2008. Until that happens, it's probably best for investors to sit this one out.

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