Fourth-quarter results and 2017 guidance from the big four oil-field service companies—Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB), Halliburton (NYSE: BHI), Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI) and Weatherford International (NYSE: WFT)—highlighted recovering drilling and completion activity in the US onshore market and ongoing challenges in international markets.
In aggregate, the four largest oil-field service firms’ North American revenue began to improve on a sequential basis in the third quarter of last year. This increase accelerated to 7.75 percent in the final three months of the year. Year-over-year improvements, however, have remained elusive.
Once again, the prospect of increased upstream capital expenditures appears most robust in prolific US shale oil and gas fields, where exploration and production companies have taken advantage of the recovery in oil prices to hedge future output and ramp up spending.
The Permian Basin in West Texas may be the hottest area in terms of drilling activity, asset acquisitions and media coverage. That said, the recovery in the US rig count looks broader than one might expect, with the formerly out-of-favor Eagle Ford Shale and the Haynesville Shale posting surprisingly impressive gains.
In contrast, international capital expenditures are expected to remain flat to slightly down in 2017, with the Middle East and Russia regarded two markets with any upside.
Although we struggle to identify a compelling reason to buy any of the big four at current valuations, recent weakness in the energy sector—and questions from readers—have