Shale drilling’s worst yet to come, biggest rig owner says
HOUSTON - America’s biggest owner of drilling rigs fell the most in seven months after the chief of Helmerich & Payne said he called the bottom too soon.
Three months ago, when Helmerich had 220 of its rigs hired out, CEO John Lindsay told investors the second quarter would be the nadir for his fleet. But after the number of Helmerich rigs at work shrank to 214 a few weeks ago, Lindsay says his earlier projection was “premature.”
“The full effect of the industry’s emphasis on disciplined capital spending continues to reverberate through the oil field services sector,” he said in a Wednesday statement. “We are reluctant to predict another bottom and see further softening during our fourth fiscal quarter as our guidance would indicate.”
The hired hands of the shale patch who drill and frac wells are suffering from a slowdown in North American spending brought on by investor demands for higher returns. The U.S. oil rig count has fallen 11% this year, according to Baker Hughes.
Fracing giant Halliburton is eliminating jobs and warehousing equipment no one wants to rent. Superior Energy Services said earlier this week that it’s looking for ways to cut costs and may sell assets to raise cash. On Thursday, 28 of the 29 oil and gas industry stocks in the S&P 500 Index were falling.
The frac market “is a mess,” Brad Handler, an analyst at Jefferies, wrote in a note to clients. “With every passing datapoint/call, there is little to suggest this market gets any better, and so we hack away at numbers again.”
Helmerich’s smaller rival Patterson-UTI Energy also cut its forecast. The Houston-based contractor said in an earnings statement it expects to run 142 rigs on average during the third quarter, down 10% from the previous three-month period.
“E&P companies are being extra vigilant this year in monitoring their spend due to commodity price volatility and the increased focus on spending within their budgets,” Andy Hendricks, chief executive officer at Patterson, said in the statement.
Helmerich & Payne fell as much as 7.6% while Patterson dropped as much as 11% for its biggest tumble since February 2018.