Why Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN) Soared on Thursday

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN) soared on Thursday after issuing fourth-quarter and full-year earnings above analyst projections.

By early afternoon, shares had driven 13.5% higher to $27.89, and 6.2 million shares had changed hands, nearly three times its three-month average daily trading volume.

The oil-drilling operation reported December-ended net income of 28 cents a share, 6 cents higher than analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected. Revenue of $659 million was 1% higher than a year earlier and broadly in line with expectations.

"During the fourth quarter, our average operating rig count in the United States increased to 183 rigs from 181 in the third quarter and our average operating rig count in Canada increased to nine from eight in the third quarter," said CEO Andy Hendricks in a statement.

For the full year, the Snyder, Texas-based business recorded per-share earnings of $1.19, 7 cents higher than consensus, and total sales of $2.72 billion, around $50 million more than expected.

The company declared a quarterly cash dividend of 10 cents a share to be paid on March 27 to shareholders of record at March 12.

"Our Board doubled the quarterly cash dividend in recognition that the Company's transformation has had a profound impact on our financial results. We embark on this higher payout to our shareholders based on our belief that we are now -- as a result of a multi-year investment program -- a far stronger company with significantly improved businesses and prospects," said chairman Mark S. Siegel.

Over 2013, Patterson-UTI repurchased around $85.8 million worth of stock. The company has $187 million remaining under its stock buyback program.

TheStreet Ratings team rates PATTERSON-UTI ENERGY INC as a Buy with a ratings score of B. The team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate PATTERSON-UTI ENERGY INC (PTEN) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, attractive valuation levels, solid stock price performance and increase in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity."

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