Saturday, December 20, 2014
- These five oil and gas producers have among the highest net debt-to-capital ratios in the industry, writes Avi Salzman, which could be an issue if oil prices stay at these levels:
- Ultra Petroleum (NYSE:UPL) at 115%, EXCO Resources (NYSE:XCO) at 90.3%, Halcon Resources (NYSE:HK) at 68.7%, W&T Offshore (NYSE:WTI) at 68.1%, Energy XXI (NASDAQ:EXXI) at 65.2%.
- Previously: Barron's: Five oils to buy now (Dec. 20, 2014)
- The super majors are probably the first place to look when oil prices fall, writes Avi Salzman, as their stocks tend to slide less drastically than smaller players, and maintenance of dividends is a priority for management. Favorites: Shell (RDS.A, RDS.B) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX).
- While smaller producers appear risky, Occidental (NYSE:OXY) came into the price plunge well-positioned with one of the industry's cleanest balance sheets.
- EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) could be the pick among shale drillers, says Salzman, as it's chosen drilling spots carefully and its break-even price is among the lowest in the industry. "[The] best management team in Houston," says one fund manager.
- Oil service stocks look especially vulnerable with capex budgets being cut, but Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) "should have protection in the downturn," writes Salzman, noting the company repurchased 1% of the float in Q3 and at 1.8% yields more than (soon to-be-merged) Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) and Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI).
- See also: Barron's: Five oils to be wary of (Dec. 20, 2014)
- With crude oil prices near five-year lows, some analysts say gas stations may be the best way to play the energy sector right now, with CST Brands (NYSE:CST), Murphy USA (NYSE:MUSA) and Marathon Petroleum (NYSE:MPC) as pure plays worth watching.
- Gasoline retailers enjoy their largest profit margins in falling price environments such as today, says Again Capital's John Kilduff.
- The gas station trend is clearly seen with refinery Valero's (NYSE:VLO) 2013 spinoff of its retail CST Brands, which operates 1,900 gas stations in North America and whose stock has easily outperformed VLO in recent months; Gabelli last week increased its 2014 EPS estimate on CST because of lower oil prices.
- MUSA and MPC, also created as gas station spinoffs from refineries, have outperformed their parent companies as well.
- Tesoro (NYSE:TSO) said its retail segment enjoyed record performance in the most recent quarter, while big box stores such as Costco (NASDAQ:COST) that have gas stations connected to their stores also noted the benefit of lower oil prices in their earnings reports.
- The S&P Retail ETF (NYSEARCA:XRT) is up 3.4% over the last month to outpace the S&P 500 Index as consumer spending trends improve. Analysts have honed in on some categories which show some promise for growth.
- Drugstores: The transition by the sector into more health/wellness services sets it up for new growth channels. CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) reported strong comparable-store sales despite the full tobacco exit, while Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) is prepping for a roll-out of RediClinics and HealthSpot kiosks. The visibility on Walgreen (NYSE:WAG) is somewhat clouded by the giant Alliance Boots integration, although it's ahead of rivals on the tech front with its rewards program, pharmacy app and developing online doctor concept.
- Athleisure: There's some gender initiatives going on in the athletic apparel sector with Under Armour (NYSE:UA) and Nike (NYSE:NKE) growing their women's business and Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) expanding on the men's side. All three companies have been closely on-trend with their assortment in a category with explosive demand. Importantly, pricing has held up this holiday season in the U.S., note retail watchers.
- Online replenishing: Fresh research into shopping trends indicates certain categories see continued buying through the online channel as consumers become attuned to a brand. Retailers positioned well to see more gains from the trend include Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM), Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ:ULTA), Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS), Office Depot (NASDAQ:ODP), Sephora (OTCPK:LVMHF), Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS), and of course Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
- P-E buyouts: There are plenty of candidates in the retail sector for a leveraged buyout similar to the action that helped propel shares of PetSmart (NASDAQ:PETM) +40% from their lows. Keep an eye on Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF), Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), and Ann (NYSE:ANN).
Friday, December 19, 2014
- OGE Energy (OGE -0.5%) is downgraded to Hold from Buy with a $38 price target, reduced from $44, at Wunderlich, based on the organic growth uncertainty for the company's interest in Enable Midstream Partners (NYSE:ENBL) created by the drop in oil prices.
- However, the firm remains fond of the OGE story and believes there will be an opportunity to revisit its rating in 2015, with greater clarity on commodity prices and associated infrastructure opportunities for ENBL; utility operations are well positioned for growth and have increasing capital spending fueled by environmental retrofits for coal plants.
- Paragon Shipping (PRGN +10.2%) shares are substantially undervalued and could double next year, Maxim Group analysts say in naming PRGN as the top pick among dry bulk shippers for 2015.
- The firm notes that supply/demand balance in the Panamax fleet should be bolstered by increased coal shipments and exports of U.S. grain to China.
- Based on its estimated balance sheet and fleet for 2015, Maxim calculates a forward NAV of $8.12, implying that PRGN trades at ~0.29x estimates.; the firm's $6 price target implies a 0.74x multiple of the estimated NAV.
- Potash (POT +1.9%) is upgraded to Buy from Neutral with a $40 price target, up from $38, at UBS, citing the company's strong dividend and improving free cash flow.
- UBS says the planned closure of Mosaic's Carlsbad operations in Jan. 2015 and the current flood at Uralkali's Solikamsk-2 mine could remove 2.4M -3.4M metric tons of combined capacity from the market and provides an opportunity for POT to gain more volumes, which also could lead to higher pricing.
- POT’s dividend yields ~4%, and UBS believes it provides downside protection given that the dividend can be funded even if potash prices remain flat; the firm thinks that over time POT may be able to return excess cash to shareholders through an increased dividend or further share repurchases.
- Other potash producers are higher: MOS +2%, AGU +0.4%, IPI +2.6%.
- Teekay Tankers (TNK -14.1%) is sharply lower after yesterday's move to launch a 20M-share public offering priced at $4.80/share and a subsequent downgrade to Neutral from Buy at UBS.
- The firm notes that TNK has far outperformed tanker peers in the last three months, and believes the company has levered itself to a strong tanker spot market at the right time, probably accounting for much of the share price performance.
- TNK's decision to double down on spot exposure in the midsize market proved wise, the firm says, thinking the share price has received full credit for the move.
- Kinross Gold (KGC -1.7%) is downgraded to Neutral from Buy with a $3 price target, down from $3.25, at UBS, citing KGC's 10% share appreciation in recent days.
- The firm also believes - assuming relatively stable commodity prices - further appreciation in KGC may be limited as some investors could re-assess emerging market risks given ongoing macroeconomic developments.
- Seadrill (NYSE:SDRL) -5.9% premarket after shares are downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman Sachs after issuing an upgrade just three weeks ago.
- Also, yesterday's cancellation of the planned swap of gas assets between Gazprom and BASF may not bode well for the future of North Atlantic Drilling's (NYSE:NADL) $4.2B rig contract with Rosneft.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
- Phillips 66 (PSX -0.2%) is upgraded to Buy from Hold while fellow refiner Valero Energy (VLO -2.2%) is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.
- On PSX, the firm notes that fears of margin pressure on the CPChem and DCP segments are somewhat warranted given the oil price backdrop, but still thinks shares are pricing in a fairly draconian scenario as investors overstate PSX’s exposure; on its sum-of-the-parts analysis, the firm thinks investors are getting the refiner segment essentially for free.
- Deutsche Bank cites valuation and its more cautious view on the sector in its VLO downgrade, as concerns around persistent weakness in Gulf coast refining margins coupled with currently narrow WTI-Brent differentials keep it on the sidelines for now.
- RBC upgrades Baker Hughes (BHI -1.2%) to Outperform from Sector Perform with a $72 price target, but the praise isn't earning the gains enjoyed by Key Energy (KEG +38.1%) and Superior Energy (SPN +4.5%) after the firm's similar upgrades.
- RBC likes BHI in its belief that sentiment will start to shift on North American land names as the oil price improves throughout 2015; BHI and Halliburton both generate ~50% of their operating income in North America, the firm notes.
- BHI continues to trade at a discount to the deal price of its merger with HAL, and should trade closer to the deal price throughout the year assuming U.S. government hurdles are met.
- RBC recommends increasing weightings and exposure to oil service stocks (OIH +2.5%) heading into 2015, as it says oil prices will start to improve in H2 of next year and that oil service stocks typically discount this move by 6-9 months.
- Down cycles such as 2000-02 and 2008-09 suggest North American land drillers and service companies provide the best returns off business cycle lows, RBC says as it expects a similar dynamic this time.
- RBC upgrades Key Energy (KEG +24.6%) and Superior Energy (SPN +7.5%) to Outperform, and downgrades FMC Tech (FTI +1.8%), Franks (FI +4.9%), Oceaneering (OII +0.2%) and Oil States (OIS +2.3%) to Sector Perform; the firm also says since 1985 three of the top five performing stocks off lows have been Patterson-UTI (PTEN +6.6%), Precision Drilling (PDS +4%) and Nabors (NBR +7.2%).
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
- PG&E (PCG +0.3%) is downgraded to Hold from Buy with a $52 price target, down from $54, at Deutsche Bank, which says it is now clear that the California Public Utilities Commission will not issue final decisions in the San Bruno investigations by year-end; previously, the firm had believed the CPUC would feel some pressure to resolve the cases by then.
- The firm feels PCG eventually can regain its premium valuation, but such a path continues to be uncertain and potentially lengthy.
- "Our broader sector call is that enterprise spending on security IT will again be very strong in 2015, if not stronger than in 2014. Throughout 2014, we flagged PANW, FTNT and PFPT as our top security picks and we’re now adding CHKP to this short-list," says Deutsche's Karl Keirstead. He's upgrading the firewall/security software vendor to Buy, and hiking his target by $20 to $90.
- Keirstead considers Check Points's (CHKP +1.9%) multiples (18x and 11.7x 2015E EPS and free cash flow, respectively) attractive given its security exposure and accelerating growth (potentially 11% Y/Y in Q4 vs. 3%-4% for much of 2013).
- With the aforementioned peers having significantly outperformed Check Point this year, Keirstead thinks "investors are likely to look more aggressively at CHKP shares as a cheaper way to play the security theme with more limited downside risk."
- Shares are $2 away from a high of $78.78. They rallied in October in response to a Q3 beat and healthy Q4 guidance. A weak euro and Palo Alto Networks' firewall share gains have been seen as potential headwinds.
- Teck Resources (TCK +10.2%) is upgraded to Buy from Hold with a C$20 price target at UBS, which believes its dividend can be funded at lower prices.
- UBS thinks TCK's Fort Hills oil sands project in Alberta should realize net backs of ~C$45/bbl vs. C$65/bbl previously, adding that while project economics deteriorate with lower oil prices, Fort Hills could benefit from other factors including a lower oil differential, lower diluent, and likely a lower Canadian dollar.
- To fund the dividend, cover capex, and pay debt, the firm estimates TCK needs to generate C$7.3B during 2015-17 and that TCK can generate ~C$6B in operating cash flow, indicating that, while it would have to draw on the revolving credit facility, TCK could maintain the dividend (if it choose to) given cash of $1.7B and undrawn credit of $3B as of Sept. 30.
- Separately, TCK also announces the first shipment of zinc and lead in concentrate from its restarted Pend Oreille operations in Washington state to its nearby Trail perations in B.C. for processing.
- FBR Capital chooses Noble Energy (NBL +8.8%), Schlumberger (SLB +4.6%), Synergy Resources (SYRG +6%), Consol Energy (CNX +3.4%) and SunEdison (SUNE +0.7%) as its top energy and natural resources stocks for 2015.
- FBR likes NBL's strong combination of shale assets that are still immature in their adoption and application of technology, which is scalable; a strong balance sheet; and a portfolio that offers abundant exploration risk/reward potential.
- SLB is FBR's favorite energy stock among those whose secular earnings power is clearly the most likely to significantly expand over the next five years and/or is underestimated at current market multiples.
- SYRG offers investors exposure to industry-leading production growth and a solid balance sheet, a unique combination for a small-cap equity, the firm says.
- The fundamentals underlying oil and gas pipeline MLPs have fallen much less than energy stocks in recent days, acording to Forbes' John Dobosz, who suggests seeking out MLPs with a long history of rising distributions, payouts well covered by cash flow, a strong balance sheet and an investment-grade credit rating.
- Two MLPs that fit these criteria, Dobosz writes, are Enterprise Products Partners (EPD +3.2%) and Magellan Midstream Partners (MMP +3.9%); he also likes Sunoco Logistics Partners (SXL +5.2%), which is expected to increase revenue 15% to $22B in 2015, with EBITDA rising 20% and distributions growing 18% this year.
- Spectra Energy Partners (SEP +2.3%), Western Gas Partners (WES +2.7%) and Energy Transfer Partners (ETP +2.4%) are appealing because of consistently rising distributions and revenues, Dobosz adds.
- Previous rating was Hold.
- Price target remains $60. Implied downside -6.5%.
- Says ED is unlikely to fare well in a rising rate environment, and notes NY regulators are likely to take steps that will be unfavorable for NY utilities.
- Previously: Con Ed cut to Sell at UBS, as earnings pressure could send ROE below 9% (Nov. 19)
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
- "Low oil prices cure low oil prices,” meaning that low oil prices will take supply off line - primarily shale oil production in North America - and eventually prices will recover; if that maxim becomes reality, then it could be time pick up select energy stocks today at cheap prices, some analysts say.
- U.S. Global Investors' Brian Hicks, who believes oil is oversold, favors Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN) for its low-cost Eagle Ford acreage purchased earlier this year, solid cash flow, and significant hedges in place on 2015 production; he also likes oil services companies Noble Corp. (NYSE:NE) and Helmerich & Payne (NYSE:HP).
- Hodges Capital's Michael Breard likes North American oil producers that have the flexibility to shift to natural gas - where prices are more likely to hold up, he says - such as Matador Resources (NYSE:MTDR), Comstock Resources (NYSE:CRK) and Panhandle Oil and Gas (NYSE:PHX).
- Deutsche Bank analysts like companies with the balance sheet strength to survive, but also the budget flexibility, asset quality and performance record to suggest they can return to growth when energy prices go back up, including Anadarko (NYSE:APC), EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG), Cimarex (NYSE:XEC) and Concho Resources (NYSE:CXO).