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Patterson-UTI (PTEN) Reports Massive Decline in Rig Count

Onshore contract driller, Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. PTEN declared that its Mar 2016 drill rig count averaged 64 in the U.S. and less than one in Canada. The company further added that its rig count averaged 71 in the U.S. and three in Canada for the three months ending Mar 31.

The latest rig count marks a substantial decrease from the company’s year-ago average rig count of 142 in the U.S. and four in Canada. Also, the rig count for the three months ending Mar 31saw a massive decline from the prior-year level of 165 rigs in the U.S. and eight in Canada.

Patterson-UTI, like other oil services and equipment suppliers, remains directly exposed to crude prices. Crude price has plunged since Jun 2014 owing to excess supply in the face of lackluster global demand. In fact, the commodity price has plummeted from the $100 per barrel mark to the current trading level of around $36 per barrel.

The weak crude pricing environment has forced most drillers to cut back on the number of rigs. Also, fewer new contracts and declining dayrates have made maintaining profitability a challenge. Retiring rigs, therefore, is an effective way to curb operating expenses. Moreover, Patterson-UTI has been undertaking measures like lowering capital spending to tackle pricing woes. Notably, the company has pegged its 2016 capital spending projection at $190 million.

Patterson-UTI is a major onshore contract driller in the U.S. with over 184 land-based rigs that operate primarily in the oil and natural gas producing regions of North America.

On the earnings front, the company reported better-than-expected numbers in the past quarter because of reduction in cost structure and good execution. The company has a large, high-quality fleet of drilling rigs, which include the technologically advanced ‘Apex’ rigs – the key to its success.

However, with the company’s rig count declining, earnings and cash flows are likely to be affected in the upcoming quarters. Negative earnings estimate revisions for the current quarter as well as the current year suggest further bearishness ahead.

Currently, Patterson-UTI carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked players from the oil and gas drilling industry are Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. DO, Hercules Offshore, Inc. HERO and Seadrill Partners LLC SDLP. All these stocks hold a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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