While the spinoff of Baker Hughes' (BHI) North American pressure pumping unit may have been one of the best moves by the industry giant in recent memory, it may have some undesired near-term consequences as well.
Namely, Baker Hughes may be less likely to benefit early in the oilfield services industry upturn, specifically from a surging rig count, than its peers, according to Seaport Global Securities analysts.
Seaport wrote Wednesday that shedding the pressure pumping operations, despite retaining a 46.7% equity stake, means BHI's business mix is less tied to the industry's cyclicality than most of its peers.
Baker Hughes, which is set to report earnings on April 25, said Friday, March 17, that U.S. producers brought online a substantial 21 rigs week-over-week. All-told, 130 rigs have come online in the first three months of 2017, Baker Hughes data shows.
"Even in [North America], more than half of its revenues, including artificial lift and chemicals, have a lower rig count correlation," SGS said. "We believe pricing has improved, and some longer-term contracts are in the market, but costs of training, start-up, etc. may still restrain margins."
Simply put, Baker Hughes' first quarter earnings report may not see the benefit from the massive build in active rigs over the past few months that some of its peers, such as Halliburton (HAL) - Get Report and Action Alerts PLUS portfolio holding Schlumberger (SLB) - Get Report, should see.
But not only will Baker Hughes not benefit fully from that steady uptick in activity, the Houston-based oilfield services giant could experience worsening activity in the Gulf of Mexico, according to SGS, as it is seeing tough comps versus the fourth quarter after high completion deliveries during that frame.
Still, the analysts admit BHI's stock is becoming less driven by earnings progression than by the implications of its pending deal with General Electric's (GE) - Get Report oil and gas unit, which is expected to close in mid-2017.
"In our opinion, GE offers a rebirth for the company, likely to provide it with a larger tool set and deeper pockets, as such better positioned for changes in the industry," SGS wrote.
So despite a potential dip after first quarter earnings, the firm feels Baker Hughes is a long-term bet. SGS reiterated its $72 price target Wednesday. Baker Hughes' shares closed down slightly Wednesday at $10.71 per share.
Editors' pick: Originally published March 22.