With all of the hubbub surrounding the US shale boom in recent times, investors may be worried that it is too late to nab a high-growth unconventional play for their portfolios for a decent price, or that this area of the energy production market is becoming saturated in overvalued gas producers and is heading for a bust.
This hesitation, while perhaps justified from either perspective, should not be a deterrent if one is not fixated on upstream stocks. Oil and gas service providers are an interesting and in some ways less-risky opportunity for playing shale, or any aspect of the oil and gas value chain really, due to their being significantly less burdened by the direct ownership of wells that deplete much faster than conventional ones, or that could turn out to be uneconomic altogether.
Equities.com's Small-Cap Stars Index currently tracks seven such oil and gasfield servicers whose stocks have performed incredibly well both over the last twelve months, as well having made substantial gains in the past month, despite encountering some rough patches along the way.
These seven services stars have added at least 30 percent in the past year, and also have the confidence of both the institutions who have bought in, as well as the analyst crowd, who on average have recommended the purchasing of their shares.
North American Energy Partners Inc. (NOA)
Market Cap: $237.78 million
Performance Month: +11 percent
Performance 12 Months: +50.92 percent
Institutional Ownership: 71.60 percent
North American Energy Partners is an Edmonton-based Canadian firm that provides mining and heavy construction services to companies primarily in the west of the country, and is involved in the oil industry specifically through its expertise in operating various stages in the lifecycle of tar sands oil projects.
Natural Gas Services Group Inc. (NGS)
Market Cap: $391.15 million
Performance Month: + 13.50 percent
Performance 12 Months: +83.55 percent
Institutional Ownership: 86.40 percent
The Midland, Texas-based Natural Gas Services is as pure and niche an unconventional gas play as one could hope to find, as it specializes in the manufacture, assemblage, and subsequent sale or rental of compressor units to producers of coal bed methane, gas shale, and tight gas.
Willbros Group Inc. (WG)
Market Cap: $434.86 million
Performance Month: +3.35 percent
Performance 12 Months: +32.64
Institutional Ownership: 70.30 percent
Willbros Group is a company from Houston, TX whose clients are comprised of oil, gas, and petrochemical companies, as well as to electric utility providers in the US and Canada. The company’s business is focused on the engineering, procurement, construction, installation and maintenance of equipment and operations.
TETRA Technologies Inc. (TTI)
Market Cap: $930.90 million
Performance Month: +9.75 percent
Performance 12 Months: +34.20 percent
Institutional Ownership: 93.80 percent
Based in Woodlands, Texas, TETRA Technologies services independent oil and gas companies in just about every continent in the world with specialty in three main categories: the production and sale of fluids necessary for well drilling and completion; production enhancement services that include well testing as well as the management of wastewater flowback from hydraulic fracturing; and specialized offshore well services.
Parker Drilling Co. (PKD)
Market Cap: $983.92 million
Performance Month: +5 percent
Performance 12 Months: +68 percent
Institutional Ownership: 77 percent
Also located in Houston, Parker Drilling could be called a pure drill-rig play, as the company’s services covers all aspects of the process by which wells are drilled. Its broad international presence in support of both independent and major national firms means that it has experience in a wide variety of geological and political contexts.
Gulfmark Offshore Inc. (GLF)
Market Cap: $1.19 billion
Performance Month: +3.80 percent
Performance 12 Months: +25.38 percent
Institutional Ownership: 86.70 percent
With operations mostly focused on the North Sea, Southeast Asia, and the Americas, Houston’s Gulfmark provides marine transport to offshore oil and gas explorers and producers of all varieties, as well as other services companies. Shares have been gained substantially since the company’s release of an impressive earnings report for the fourth quarter of 2013. Among the stock’s most compelling features are its $56.50 price target, indicating significant upside potential, and its forward P/E ratio at just over 10 times earnings.
Basic Energy Services (BAS)
Market Cap: $949.55 million
Performance Month: +35.95 percent
Performance 12 Months: +68 percent
Institutional Ownership: 20.10 percent
Fort Worth’s Basic Energy Services provides well-side assistance for US drillers and producers. Basic Energy Services is included as an honorable mention here despite its low institutional ownership relative to the other companies on the list due to the fact that Wall Street seems to have taken a keen interest in the stock over the last three months, a period during which institutional ownership increased by 75 percent.
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