Jefferies

(JEF) - Get Report

, long known as a boutique investment bank with a crack oil-service and independent oil-research team, is expanding its energy research to include Big Oil.

Sam Albright, Jefferies' director of energy research since 1996, is stepping down from his post to initiate coverage of major integrated firms. Albright's replacement is expected to join the firm next week; the firm declined to name the new research director.

The move comes as the energy sector is undergoing its largest structural changes in decades. The unprecedented merger and restructuring activity of the past year -- from the pending merger of

Exxon

(XON) - Get Report

and

Mobil

(MOB)

to the refocusing and cost-cutting by smaller oil companies -- is expected to continue into the millennium.

The move to cover the oil majors is geared more toward generating ideas for institutional clients rather than producing underwriting or merger-and-acquisitions business, says Stephen McMenamin, Jefferies' director of marketing.

But getting on the cover of some deals involving the majors certainly couldn't hurt.

With just more than $2 billion in energy merger-and-acquisition deals from 1996 through 1998, Los Angeles-based Jefferies ranked 14th out of the 25 investment banks involved in energy M&A, according to

Securities Data

.

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

outshone the pack, racking up $148.4 billion in deals. Ranking second was

Morgan Stanley

(MWD)

, with $103.1 billion, and placing third was

Goldman Sachs

, with $102.3 billion.

Jefferies fared better in underwriting debt, equity and private placements. It ranked sixth for the 1996 through the 1998 time period, having underwritten $4.2 billion. Morgan Stanley came out first in underwriting deals, having generated $16.5 billion in proceeds. Second was

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

, with $11.5 billion, and Goldman was third, with $11 billion.

Global's Money-Saving Move

Global Marine

(GLM)

expects to save as much as $54 million this year through two sale lease-back agreements.

It put together the agreements in December with the leasing subsidiaries of

Barclays Bank

and

Lloyds Bank

, two British firms, according to the firm's 10-K, filed Wednesday with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

. A company representative was unavailable to comment.

Global is constructing the two drill ships, which will be capable of drilling for oil in waters as deep as 10,000 feet, at a Northern Ireland shipyard. Total leasing costs, including construction, equipment and financing for the two ships, are expected to total $610 million. Global already spent $234 million in 1998 and expects to spend $374 million, including interest, this year and next. About 71% of the total construction cost, or $434 million, will be recouped by Global in the first three years after delivery through firm three-year contracts for each ship, the company said in its filing. In addition, Global has a letter of intent for another six-month commitment for the first of the two ships to be delivered, the C.R. Luigs. The original Luigs' contract includes two six-month options.

Global's recent operational misstep -- hiring third-party rigs for long-term contracts for its drilling-management division -- still will haunt it this year, the company said in the filing. It had 16 jackup, or shallow-water, rigs under long-term contracts when oil prices and rig day rates, or rental rates, turned south. Its drilling-management division,

ADTI

, had to continue paying high day rates while many of the rigs sat idle in recent months. The last of these long-term contracts will end in June, but Global expects an additional impact of $9 million in idle time this year, after idle-time costs of $39 million in 1998.