2 Offshore Rig Companies With a Lot to Like

Marc Courtenay

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Today is an opportunistic moment to own businesses that lease mobile, offshore deepwater drilling units that explore for oil and gas. These units can also establish offshore production wells helping the client pump up profits.

Take a company like Atwood Oceanics , the Houston-based company that owns a fleet of approximately 13 mobile offshore drilling units.

They are mainly located in the United States, Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, offshore West Africa, offshore Southeast Asia and offshore Australia. ATW also has three ultra-deepwater drill ships and two high-specification jack ups under construction.

It's a lucrative business that involves terms like "day-rates" and "ultra-deepwater drillship contracts," which are often used to define the value of companies like ATW. For example, on Monday ATW announced that one of its subsidiaries has been awarded a drilling services contract for the ultra-deepwater drillship Atwood Achiever by a subsidiary of Kosmos Energy for an exploration program commencing in Morocco.

The three-year contract agreement for the 12,000 feet water-depth-capable, dynamically positioned drillship that is currently under construction gives us some insight as to how companies like ATW make big bucks. The agreement specifies a base operating rate of approximately $595,000 per day which will be grossed up for all applicable taxes, and a firm duration of three years.

That means for every 10 operating days the Atwood Achiever, which will be ready for delivery in the summer of 2014, performs its services ATW will gross at least $5.95 million. This contract adds $652 million in revenue backlog, bringing Atwood's total revenue backlog to approximately $3.9 billion as of Monday.

The news and details of the company's operations can be found at its user-friendly Web site, which clearly spells out the scope, mission and priorities of Atwood Oceanics.

Currently selling at less than nine times forward (one-year) earnings with a price-to-earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio (five-year expected) of only 0.53, ATW is an underpriced value that for now is sailing under the radar of the Smart Money. Then there's its $3.61 billion market cap, which makes ATW a bite-size prey.

Yes, I'm suggesting that a large predator like General Electric , which is aggressively expanding into the energy business or even a huge energy services competitor like Schlumberger with its trailing 12-month (TTM) operating cash flow of $7.07 billion and $97.44 billion market cap could take out ATW with relative ease.

It seems like every week now ATW has announced another juicy deal for its rigs. On June 5 it announced that one of its subsidiaries had been awarded a drilling services contract for the Atwood Beacon by Eni , the Italian energy exploration and production company.

The Atwood Beacon is currently working off Israel's shore under a contract expected to conclude by July. The two-year contract from ENI, which can be extended to a third year, adds approximately $128 million more to ATW's revenue backlog.

I'd like to propose a suitable "marriage" partner for ATW that's a money-making machine in its own right. Ensco , a top-ranked global provider of offshore drilling services to the petroleum industry would be an excellent match for ATW.

ESV is in the same business as ATW and just ordered an additional advanced-capability DP3 ultra-deepwater drillship based on the Samsung GF12000 hull design. The vessel, ENSCO DS-10, will be the eighth Samsung DP3 drillship in the Ensco fleet, further extending the benefits of Ensco's fleet standardization strategy.

TheStreet's Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link have favored ESV for its exceptional execution of its business strategy and its shareholder-friendly attitude, which includes a dividend currently yielding 3.3%.

In fact, today they told Action Alerts PLUS subscribers, "ESV announced that it contracted for the construction of its eighth UDW drillship for Samsung with a cost of $625 million and an option to add a second blowout preventer at $35 million. It will deliver the rig later this year."

They added, "Management cited continued market strength and we like its ESV's superior technology, global exposure and diverse customer base. It has a new $2 billion buyback program and trades at 9x forward estimates, which is below peers."

Here's a one-year price chart of ATW and ESV. It paints a picture of good upside potential for the shares' prices. Not surprisingly, the two companies have such similar businesses that the stocks appear to move in tandem.

ATW data by YCharts

With ATW an investor has an investment with a consensus one-year analysts' target price of over $60 a share. Plus, there's the realistic chance that it may be bought and taken over by an ambitious larger company.

If you're also looking for some income as well as growth potential, consider ESV, too. Like ATW, ESV is expected to have a good year ahead when it comes to sales growth and improving EPS results.

By the way, the analyst community is anticipating ATW's current quarter EPS to increase by almost 70% and is calling for revenue growth of more than 50%. We aren't the only investors who know this, and that's why I don't expect ATW (or ESV for that matter) to remain at current price levels much longer.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.