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'Praising' Weatherford: Not as Bad as It Used to Be

Stocks in this article: WFT SLB HAL BHI

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The headline of this article were the exact words of TheStreet's Jim Cramer as he described Weatherford International (WFT - Get Report) during the Lightning Round segment of Tuesday's "Mad Money." While it was not a full-blown endorsement for the No. 4 energy services giant, Cramer's reference did remind me of how Weatherford's management ruined this once-dominant company with its poor internal controls. And that's putting it mildly.

Not only has Weatherford been inundated with tax problems over the past several years, but the company has been accused of illegal dealings and corruption with countries such as Iraq under U.S. sanctions. Although there is now word that the company has reached a settlement with the U.S. government worth an estimated $253 million, it remains to be seen what the final outcome will be.

Now, I do need to point out that these sanctions date as far back as 2003. And to be perfectly fair, it's worth noting that Weatherford has cooperated fully with the government to bring closure to these matters. That we are still discussing them today speaks to the slow-moving process of our justice department. Fairly or unfairly, that's the bed Weatherford has made.

With better-than-expected results coming out from Schlumberger (SLB) and Halliburton (HAL), I do see an opportunity to capitalize on Weatherford stock, if/when these issues are put to rest once and for all. I appreciate that there are still plenty of risks here. But while Weatherford does have plenty of work to do to regain the Street's trust, it makes no sense risking potential value by waiting for proof that things have gotten better. The stock is already trading on low expectations, many of which were exceeded in the recent quarter.

Unlike, say, Baker Hughes (BHI), one of the things that has hurt Weatherford in the past has been management's inability to operate efficiently. But with a renewed emphasis on margins and operations, Weatherford took a meaningful step forward this quarter by posting a $22 million profit, or 3 cents per share.

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