This column was originally published on RealMoney on July 28 at 1:06 p.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.Earnings in the oil patch have largely been energizing. The quarter began on a neutral note with results from Weatherford ( WFT), but Schlumberger ( SLB) provided an upbeat outlook for oil-field services, and Nabors ( NBR) was reassuring about business trends, especially in North American natural gas. Still, some investors remain nervous about energy. On Wednesday, a solid report and outlook from FMC Technologies ( FTI) was largely ignored as investors focused on concerns over the company's potential exposure to the North American natural gas market and the loss of a subsea processing contract to a competitor. While careful review of company results is always important, the reaction to FMC Technologies creates opportunities for patient energy investors. The reaction to FMC's earnings is puzzling. The company produced solid results, brokered a favorable resolution to an ongoing contract dispute with Sonatrach in Algeria and raised guidance. Despite that, the stock has fallen about 7% since its report. What gives? Two potential reasons: Aker Kvaerner beat it out to win a contract to provide subsea-processing equipment to Norsk Hydro's ( NHY) Ormen Lange project, and, perhaps, the conference call Q&A session started off spending way too much time talking about the company's minimal exposure to the North American natural gas market. While these are important issues to discuss, they are both relatively insignificant to FMC in the long term. First, Kvaerner put in an extremely low bid for the Norsk Hydro contract. If FMC had bid any lower, the project would have been a money-loser for it. I like candid managements, and FMC CEO Joe Netherland was candid when he said that he won't sacrifice margins for market share. Kvaerner needed a project to launch its subsea compression business, and it chose the Norsk project. As a result, I believe the Norsk bid was likely 50% below the FMC bid. As a result, the loss is probably a blessing for FMC.
The other concern is FMC's exposure to North American natural gas. While certain segments of its business are more exposed than others, overall the company's business is only 10% leveraged to the domestic gas markets. In other words, over 90% of FMC's business is related to oil production, the majority of that in international markets. More importantly, FMC is a leader in developing new technology that makes oil and natural gas exploration and production more efficient. From its subsea production systems to new subsea processing innovations -- technology that allows a producer to put separation and compression equipment underwater, closer to the producing reservoir -- FMC is a pioneer in developing solutions that allow exploration companies to produce in new horizons. That business is what has pushed FMC earnings higher and allowed the company to move numbers higher for the balance of the year, and it should provide investors some level of confidence that -- over the next three to five years -- FMC should be a growth leader in the oil patch.