Insiders Make Big Buys At These 2 Small Energy Plays

Includes: HLX, IO
by: Bret Jensen

Doing my usual Saturday perusing the top 20 list of companies with the most insider buying in this weekend's Barron's. Two interesting energy concerns are within the top 5 of companies with recent insider purchases this week.

Both of these recently beaten down concerns had more than $1mm of new shares gobbled up by insiders in the last reported week. In addition, both stocks are down significantly from recent highs as earnings are set to decline in FY2013 Y/Y. However both companies should return to revenue and earnings growth in FY2014. Are insiders signaling the worst is over?

Helix Energy Solutions Group (NYSE:HLX) is an offshore energy company, provides specialty services to the offshore energy industry in the United States, the United Kingdom, and internationally. HLX goes for ~$23 a share, 15% below recent highs. This decline has attracted insider interest as in late October an officer made a purchase of over $1.1mm. It was the first insider purchase in at least two years.

Revenues are set to decline almost 40% this year mainly due to its divestiture of its oil & gas business this February. Things are set to improve in FY2014 however as the consensus calls for sales to increase almost 20% next year. Earnings are also projected to improve some 60% over this year's ~$1 a share. Reassuringly the company has easily beat earnings estimates each of the last two quarters.

The company is also well-positioned from activity in the Gulf of Mexico continuing its upward trend since recovering from the huge spill in 2010. The company has a solid balance sheet and the median price target by the 6 analysts that follow the stock is $30 a share, which is also the price target by S&P which has a "Buy" rating on the stock.

ION Geophysical Corporation (NYSE:IO) is a small energy services firm that provides geophysical technology, services, and solutions for the oil and gas industry internationally. Two insiders bought over $1.1mm of new shares in the last reported week. This continues a spate of insider buying over the last few months.

The stock has declined some 40% from its highs earlier in the year. The pullback was primarily triggered by the company badly missing expectations in each of its last two earnings reports. Judging from the recent insider buying, management believes these disappointing results will be curtailed in the near or medium term.

After bottoming near 20 cents a share in profit this year earnings are projected to increase substantially in FY2014. The current consensus calls for the company to almost double earnings to almost 40 cents a share next year. Revenues are also supposed to increase more than 10% next year as well. Price targets on HLX by analysts that cover it range from $6 to $9 a share, all substantially above its current stock level.

Disclosure: I am long IO. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.