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Global Oilfield Services & Drilling Sector Reaches Turning Point, Moody’s

September 05, 2017, 07:08 AM
Filed Under: Economic Commentary

The outlook for the global oilfield services and drilling sector (OFS) remains stable, Moody's Investors Service says in a new report. After two years of severe demand and price erosion, 2017 marks a turning point for revenues, earnings and cash flows, with OFS activity stabilizing in most geographic markets.

"The stable outlook for the global OFS sector reflects our view that the worst is now behind us and we are in the early stages of a cyclical recovery," said Moody's analyst, Sajjad Alam. "After a weak 2016, we expect industry earnings to grow 6%-8% in 2017 and more substantially next year, given improved prospects for commodity prices and higher upstream spending."

OFS revenues will rise as North American exploration and production (E&P) companies spend 25%-30% more this year and overall global upstream spending grows by mid-single-digit percentages, Alam says. However, increased OFS activity won't bring substantial cash flow growth until 2018, as global oil markets slowly rebalance and OFS pricing only gradually improves.

Neither will the recovery be uniform across OFS segments and markets, with some businesses and markets even suffering further revenue and EBITDA declines. Many companies have to cover significant re-activation costs, rising labor costs and increasing working capital demands during the early phases of recovery. Demand will bounce back most prominently in US and Canadian land markets, where activity contracted the most during the downturn. Completion-related services will see the highest price appreciation, though cash flows will still grow only modestly this year.

Despite rapid rig additions during the first half of 2017 in North America, Moody's expects slower rig growth going forward because of the significant improvements in drilling efficiency and well productivity, as well as the increasing production trends among US shale producers. The US rig count will likely settle around 1,000 rigs in 2017, limiting dayrate increases. Rig growth will be even slower in international land markets through mid-2018, keeping dayrates at low levels.

Meanwhile, offshore markets will remain most challenged where major deepwater/ultra-deepwater development and drilling projects are unlikely to move forward until oil prices go above $60 per barrel, Moody's says. Revenues and backlogs for offshore drillers, equipment manufacturers and logistics companies will continue to decline as customers offer low-margin contracts, or avoid contracts altogether, while overcapacity in the offshore segment takes several years yet to clear.

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