National Oilwell Varco's Volatility Is Not for the Squeamish Investor

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- National Oilwell Varco (NOV) is one of the better-run names in the energy sector today. Despite prolonged, weak oil prices, the company is returning cash to shareholders via its three-year $3 billion share repurchase program.

But even with the buying opportunity created by shares being down 10% for the year to date, owning this stock is not for the squeamish. If you like volatility, this is your stock.

Since reaching a 52-week high of $86.55 on Sept. 2, shares of the provider of drill rig equipment, downhole tools and supply chain integration services have fallen more than 22%, reaching $67.25 on Oct. 15. As it has done over the past year, however, the stock rebounded, climbing 11% from that low to reach $74.65 on Oct. 29.

The chart below, courtesy of Google Finance, shows the volatile nature of National Oilwell. With each peak comes a valley. After two valleys, it's time to buy, especially since the stock still has a high analyst 12-month price target of $100, which calls for 44% potential gains.

It's been two years since National Oilwell shares saw a drop that massive. It occurred in September 2012 when the shares fell 23.5% from a high of $84.83 to $64.87 in the following December. The stock then went on to reach its recent high of $86.55 two months ago for a 33% gain.

It's not surprising why National Oilwell stock has suffered recently. Crude oil prices have fallen 14.7% over the past month, according to CNN Money. The price of light crude was last quoted at $77.19, which is down 17.68% over the past year. Investors are in a panic that oil prices will remain low for an extended period of time. It's a risk. But it's also an opportunity.

National Oilwell has shown some immunity to weak oil prices, recently reporting third-quarter revenue of $5.59 billion, which climbed 17.3% year over year, beating Wall Street's estimates by 2.5%. Equally impressive, the company posted earnings per share of $1.62, helped by 5 cents per share from a lower than normal tax rate (28.8% vs. 31%). Even without the tax benefit the $1.57 per share still beat Wall Street estimates by 3 cents.

However, the biggest risk has been the company's weak backlog, reported at $14.3 billion, falling short of estimates by 3% because of weaker inbound orders. However, Clay Williams, the company's president, chairman and CEO, said during the company's conference call sees "very strong backlogs for offshore rig equipment, rising demand for land rigs, steady growth in rig aftermarket results and growing demand for pressure pumping equipment" going into 2015.

This was part of the reason Marshall Adkins and James Rollyson, analysts at Raymond James, reiterated their strong buy rating on the stock with a 12-month price target on $85. In a research note to investors, they called the weak backlog a "hiccup," citing increased drilling activity in North America and the Middle East, which bodes well for the company.

At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.


TheStreet Ratings team rates NATIONAL OILWELL VARCO INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate NATIONAL OILWELL VARCO INC (NOV) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. 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, growth in earnings per share and increase in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."

You can view the full analysis from the report here: NOV Ratings Report

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