NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The plunge in oil prices has forced energy companies, especially those that specialize in exploration and production, to rethink their business practices. Cutting costs has become a priority. And with offshore driller Nabors Industries  (NBR - Get Reportannouncing plans Monday to scale back the pace of some of its largest projects, it means less risk for the company and potentially higher profits for shareholders.

Nabors, which operates the largest land drilling rig fleet in the world, said it had "significantly scaled back" the pace of new rig construction in the United States as part of its efforts to cut costs.

The Hamilton, Bermuda-based company missed fourth-quarter revenue and earnings results Monday, but there's now an opportunity for investors to get into a stock that has suffered one of the worst spells within the sector. 

While Nabors did suffer from lower rig activity due to the glut of oil that exists in the market, investors should be encouraged that -- on the land drilling side of the business -- Nabors still generated close to 90% rig utilization. This means despite the tough environment, the company's assets were still producing.

What's more, Nabors' international segment benefited from both higher rig deployments and better contract renewals. That means the company's global presence is now serving as an asset since international business will help offset ongoing weakness in the U.S.

And despite the headwinds that led to the earnings miss, Nabors still managed to land U.S. contracts for two new PACE-X rigs. PACE-X is the company's latest generation of specialty rigs, designed specifically for multi-well drilling.These rigs enable them to operate in any climate, regardless of weather.

This is important for investors for understand because the PACE-X rigs generate higher day utilization rates for the company. And day rates are the lifeblood of rig operators.

The amount of money a drilling contractor like Nabors gets paid is based on the number of days its rigs stay in operation. And to the extent its entire fleet of rigs remains operable each day, Nabors makes more money. In this case, with two PACE-X rigs having been contracted, things are looking up for Nabors.

All told, despite the revenue and earnings miss, Nabors has begun to show positive signs of improvement. And with the stock up more than 4% Tuesday, reaching a high of $13.19 -- 33% above its 52-week low -- investors have already seen the worst.

For the quarter that ended in December, the company posted a net loss of $891.1 million, or $3.08 a share, compared with a profit of $150.6 million, or 50 cents a share in the year-ago quarter.

And while crude prices are near multi-year lows, patient investors willing to bet on Nabors stock -- which has a consensus buy rating and analysts expecting roughly 12% gains from current levels, based on the average 12-month price target of $14 -- could expect to see some gains. 

Coupled with its quarterly dividend of 6 cents a share, yielding 1.91%, investors should do well in the next 12 to 18 months.

 

 

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.