After trimming its workforce by over one-quarter during the past 18 months, the world's largest oilfield services provider Schlumberger (SLB) - Get Report is now a leaner company that's better equipped to cope with the global energy downturn.
Schlumberger's proposed $12 billion takeover of China-based energy services provider Cameron is in the final stages, with China delivering the much-needed regulatory go-ahead.
This acquisition has the potential to become a game-changer for Schlumberger by linking the company with Cameron's complementary activities.
Revenues and profits in the oil services industry have been under tremendous pressure in this industry.
Just a year after reporting $3.5 billion in profits, rival Halliburton reported a loss of $671 million in 2015. Baker Hughes, which Haliburton wants to buy for nearly $35 billion, reported a year-over-year sales drop of 55% and a net loss of almost $2 billion.
The story is the same for National Oilwell Varco (over 50% topline reduction and net losses).
The industry is unlikely to see any major recovery until 2017. With this long-term prognosis in mind, Schlumberger has trimmed its workforce and is not afraid to do more.
The result: Schlumberger managed profits of $2 billion last year, down from $5.4 billion in 2014 but still strong.
With the Cameron deal set to close April 1, the combined company can expect $300 million and $600 million in synergies in first and second years.
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It's important to understand the impact of this deal.
Oilfield services is essentially about technology. By acquiring Cameron, Schlumberger will be able to provide a wider variety of products and services to oil and gas clients, and improve their efficiency. Oilfield services companies that deliver innovative technology while improving performance will be among the market's winners.
Based on 2015 figures, the combined company would have revenues of $44 billion and earnings of $2.5 billion. Schlumberger's reservoir and well technologies with Cameron's surface, drilling, processing and flow control technologies will help them through additional, global exploration and production spending reductions.
Furthermore, having worked together on OneSubsea (a successful partnership), this combination can deliver significant value to investors and create a massive premier oilfield equipment and services company with an integrated, expanded platform.
This is why we've seen Barclays, UBS and a host of others turning more positive on the company's shares recently.
Schlumberger's dividend history (five years of growth) has been solid and we expect its financial strength to rise following the Cameron merger even as the benefits start flowing in.
During the downturn in 2015, the company generated over $6.3 billion in free cash flows (FCF), which is more than the combined figures of Halliburton ($722 million), Baker Hughes ($831 million), National Oilwell Varco ($879 million) and many others.
While several others have failed to generate FCF or sharply seen reductions as high as 50%, Schlumberger has managed to largely preserve its free cash flow. Its $13.03 billion cash pile and annual FCF covers the $2.4 billion annual dividend, as well as the Cameron takeover. The company's shares currently offer a yield of 2.74%.
Schlumberger has been managing itself well, in this painful period of low energy prices. With Cameron, the company will become an even stronger enterprise when oil markets recover.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.