Gamble of the day: A turnaround oil play

Everything was going so well for this oil company until recently. Phil Oakley explains why a turnaround could offer big rewards for brave investors.

Until the end of 2013, everythingseemed to be going well for this oil-services company. Its bread-and-butter business of building and maintaining oil platforms was doing nicely and winning orders.

The Integrated Energy Services unit, where itpartnered up with oil companies to operate oil platforms in return for a share of the spoils, was going to keep profits racing ahead. Its shares were well liked by investors.

How fast things can change. Last year, itissued three profit warnings, hammering the share price which has fallen from a high of nearly £15 back in May to just over £7 now.

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Sure, the falling price of oil has not helped sentiment towards oil companies but it seems that a large chunk of Petrofac's (LSE: PFC)woes has been self-inflicted.

Just over a month ago, Petrofactold investors that it expected its net profits for 2015 to be around $500m. A year ago it said it was on track to make nearly $900m.

So what's gone wrong? A falling oil price means that oilfields tend to make less money. But there have also been teething troubles in getting projects to work properly in places such as Mexico, Romania and the North Sea. A big oil platform project in the Shetlands has also hit problems and will not make any money for Petrofac this year.


If this is true and I'll warn you right now it isn't always then perhaps better days are ahead.

Petrofac has to get its house in order but there are grounds for optimism. It continues to win new orders and in fact has a record order book of just over $21bn (around 3.5 times 2013 revenues). Of course, the low oil price might make oil companies think twice before spending on new rigs and pipelines. They may even cancel contracts. But so far this has not happened.

It's also worth noting that only around 20% of profits are coming from jointly operating oil platforms. If building and maintenance orders turn into the expected revenues and the oil price rebounds, then Petrofac shares at just over seven times 2015 forecast earnings per share (about 95.8p at the current exchange rate) could be cheap.

Last year's dividend per share was just over $0.65 (42.9p at current exchange rates). If the company has the confidence to maintain this when it announces its 2014 results in February, then the 6% yield could attract fresh buyers.

Verdict: risky buy at 711p

Phil spent 13 years as an investment analyst for both stockbroking and fund management companies.


After graduating with a MSc in International Banking, Economics & Finance from Liverpool Business School in 1996, Phil went to work for BWD Rensburg, a Liverpool based investment manager. In 2001, he joined ABN AMRO as a transport analyst. After a brief spell as a food retail analyst, he spent five years with ABN's very successful UK Smaller Companies team where he covered engineering, transport and support services stocks.


In 2007, Phil joined Halbis Capital Management as a European equities analyst. He began writing for MoneyWeek in 2010.