NEW YORK (TheStreet) – Ensco (ESV) shares will probably continue to fall amid concerns the company, which specializes in offshore oil and gas drilling, will be forced to cut its generous dividend due to prolonged weakness in oil prices.
Investors, who have seen their holdings plummet 25% in three months, are unlikely to get good news when the company reports fourth-quarter and full-year results Wednesday. They may do well to sell and move on.
Ensco stock closed Friday at $29.76. The shares have traded roughly flat in 2015, against 1.78% and 2.5% respective gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) and the S&P 500 (SPX) . But like other oil and gas drillers, the London-based company has been punished for its gloomy business prospects, losing more than 40% of its value in just six months.
Investors are worried that the company's $3.00 annual dividend -- one of the biggest draws of the stock -- may be in danger. With its yield of 10.08%, Ensco is one of the most generous payers not just in the energy sector, but in the entire market. The average yield in the S&P 500 is about 2%.
Ensco's generosity is a deficit.
With drilling activity on the decline amid an oversupply of oil, the company, like other oil drillers, has assets that aren't generating revenue. In the meantime, these dividends cost the companies a lot of money. Until business prospects improve, there's not justification to keep paying them -- not when drillers are struggling to run their operations profitably.
Hurting Ensco even more is the company's net debt position of $4.74 billion, according toYahoo! Finance. With profit margins declining 1.73% in the trailing twelve months, analysts have grown more bearish with their estimates, reflecting doubt about the company's ability to grow future earnings. In that regard, Ensco stock, which has a consensus hold rating, is projected to post annual earnings decline of 3.5% over the next five years.
For the quarter that ended in December, analysts are looking for earning of $1.38 a share on revenue of $1.16 billion, a 6.6% year-over-year decline.
Earnings estimates have declined 13% from where they were at the beginning of the quarter at $1.58 per share. For the full year, earnings are expected to decline 2.4% to $6.01, while revenue is projected to be $4.82 billion, down 2% year over year.
Some things Ensco may do to improve its future business prospects include selling off nonperforming assets and/or acquiring certain assets/businesses that improve its market reach and are accretive to earnings. For now, with estimates on the decline, investors shouldn't play here. Holding this stock, especially with Ensco's dividend being in question, is a mistake.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.