These are good days for oilfield services companies. The high prices of oil and gas, coupled with depleting reserves, have led many energy producers to increase their exploration, drilling, and well-stimulation activities. That's all good news for Schlumberger
Revenue rose 21% for the quarter as the company saw 20% growth in the oilfield services business and 31% revenue growth in its WesternGeco seismic data business (70% owned by Schlumberger and 30% owned by Baker Hughes
Margins were also considerably stronger in the quarter. Oilfield services saw pre-tax income increase 48%, while WesternGeco's pre-tax operating income nearly quadrupled. As a whole, the company saw income from continuing operations climb 84% and net income grow by nearly 36%.
Simply put, Schlumberger is a global titan in its business. Not only does the company spend considerable amounts of money to stay up to date with the latest and best technology, but it also has numerous local offices around the world to better serve its clients. Both of those competitive aspects are a benefit of scale -- small companies are hard-pressed to match Schlumberger because they don't have enough business to absorb those costs.
Low energy prices in the past stifled spending on exploration, and oilfield services and producers are now scrambling to catch up. What's more, the volatile tie between day-to-day energy prices and oil service stocks ignores an important detail -- so long as oil prices stay above $30 a barrel, there will continue to be expanding demand for services. While management acknowledged that a drop below $40 would start to impact growth, that's a lot of leeway in the business model.
In some respects, I realize that Schlumberger does not look like an ideal investment. The company has a fair bit of debt, and valuation does look a bit higher than its peers. That said, as the biggest player in the game, I have no problem with Schlumberger getting a premium. Assuming that you believe oil prices are going to stay firm for a few more years, Schlumberger would still look to be an interesting play on the energy market.
For more "crude" Foolishness, fuel up on these:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).