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UBS Narrows Oil Services Picks to Six Names as Sector Gets Hit Hard

Lee Jackson

The fracking revolution is helping to revive the U.S. oil exploration and production industry. It also is distinguishing the companies that are big enough and have deep enough pockets to finance the expensive process. As third-quarter earnings continue pour in, it has become evident to the analysts at UBS that a good portfolio mantra may be "Only the strong survive."

While earnings generally have been in line, many companies have been very cautious with their projections for the fourth quarter and next year. In addition, there is starting to be a general thought on Wall Street that oil prices are headed lower. Some firms think they can go much lower. Given that the environment may get tougher before it gets better, the team at UBS has narrowed their list of top stocks to buy to the firms with deep pockets and staying power.

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Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) stays on the UBS list and with good reason: the company earnings reported last week. The majority of the beat in the quarter was from better-than-expected international margins, with North America contributing only modestly. The UBS team believes margin gains in North America will be difficult in an overall flat rig market, which remains highly competitive on the pressure pumping side. They expect North American margins will climb slowly higher and not move much higher as some had hoped. The international margin gains were extremely impressive and a welcome sight. Investors are paid a 1% dividend. UBS raises its price target to $62 from $56. The Thomson/First Call estimate stands at $64. Baker Hughes closed Monday at $47.17.

Halliburton Co. (HAL) flexes its muscle and remains a top stock to buy. The company reported a modest third-quarter earnings gain versus expectations. The company has been a UBS top pick since the beginning of the year. Considering the outperformance, the analysts think the near term could be choppy. Longer term, they see strong gains from the international and offshore markets. Investors are paid a 1% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is $60, and the consensus is posted at $62. Halliburton closed Monday at $52.03.

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Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) is another giant that remains a top pick at UBS. The company beat earning when it reported and appears to be on track for a strong finish to the year. The UBS analysts think it will continue to drive margins on execution, technologies and efficiencies. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and China are expected to be the strongest markets in 2014. Investors receive a 1.3% dividend. The UBS price target for the stock is $100, and the consensus is higher at $109.50. Schlumberger closed Monday at $92.85.

FMC Technologies Inc. (FTI) remains on the list of top stock to buy at UBS. The UBS analysts believes that subsea equipment is one of the few services areas that will see secular growth in 2014 and beyond. The company's Subsea Technologies segment designs and manufactures subsea systems used in the offshore production of crude oil and natural gas, as well as multiphase meters used in production and surface well testing, reservoir monitoring, remote operation, fiscal allocation, process monitoring and control and artificial lift optimization, as well as provides installation and workover tools, installation assistance and field support for commissioning, intervention and maintenance of subsea systems. The UBS price objective is $64. The consensus is at $63 and FMC closed Monday at $51.81.

Frank International N.V. (FI) has made the cut, stays on the list and is also one of Jim Cramer’s top stock picks this week. This specialty company provides various engineered tubular services for the oil and gas exploration and production companies in the United States and internationally. Its tubular services include the handling and installation of multiple joints of pipe to establish a cased wellbore and the installation of smaller diameter pipe inside a cased wellbore to provide a conduit for produced oil and gas to reach the surface. Shareholders are paid a 1% dividend. The UBS price target is $33, while the consensus is at $34.50. Franks closed Monday at $30.57.

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Rowan Companies PLC (RDC) is the only offshore driller to make the UBS list of top stocks to buy. The company is a major provider of global offshore contract drilling services, focused on safely and efficiently fulfilling the demanding offshore drilling needs of its customers. Rowan claims that it maintains a 90-year commitment to the safety and development of employees and has cultivated one of the most experienced, skilled and dedicated workforces in its industry. Rowan holds a leading position in high-specification jackup rigs and its fleet of 30 jackup rigs operates worldwide, including the Middle East, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, Trinidad, Southeast Asia and the Gulf of Mexico. The UBS target for the stock is $43, and the consensus target is posted at $42. Rowan closed Monday at $36.88.

Oil demand from emerging markets will continue to grow. If oil prices start to fall, only the companies that can squeeze out growth from their margins will show success. Typically the larger cap leaders have that ability. The UBS team wants to keep their chips on the companies that have the ability to succeed when the going gets tough.

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