Forum Energy Sees Buyouts, Share Gains Fueling Growth

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Like a lot of companies that earn their living in the oil and gas business,Forum Energy Technologies ( FET ) has been on a strong run the last couple of years.

The company provides equipment and services through two main business segments: Drilling and subsea, and production and infrastructure. Its customers include oilfield services firms, assemblers of drilling and well servicing equipment and onshore and offshore drilling contractors.

Thanks to high crude prices and heavy demand for its equipment and services, Forum has recorded four straight quarters of triple-digit earnings growth. Sales have risen at least 45% over the same period.

The company sees no reason it can't continue to produce robust growth well into the future despite the fickle nature of the oil and gas industry.

"Forum expects to grow at a 20% annual rate over the next several years through market fundamentals, market share gains and acquisitions," JPMorgan analyst J. David Anderson noted in a recent report.

The company's buyout strategy will center on companies in the subsea, international and downhole equipment sectors, Anderson says. He looks for deals in the $30 million to $150 million range that are immediately accretive to earnings.

High Debt

"The company has plenty of flexibility on the balance sheet and is willing to take debt up to as high as three times EBITDA," Anderson said. "Management expects to do at least one deal by year end."

In a note following Forum's second-quarter earnings report, Citigroup analyst Robin Shoemaker said the company should find growth on a number of different fronts in coming quarters.

"We continue to believe that Forum will benefit from its emphasis on consumable parts, potential expansion in Brazil, Australia and China, and leverage to increasing service intensity, higher well complexity and greater deepwater development," Shoemaker noted.

Forum's ambitious growth strategy belies its status as a relatively new operation.

The company was formed in the summer of 2010 after a five-way merger that included Forum Oilfield Technologies, Triton Group, Subsea Services International, Global Flow Technologies and Allied Technology.

Forum went public April 12 at an opening price of 20. Shares peaked at 23.86 April 30, then sagged as low as 18.60 July 27 after the company lowered its full-year guidance. But the stock has rebounded since then and currently trades near 23.

Forum's Drilling and Subsea business supplies a variety of services and goods, including capital equipment, products for subsea pipelines and remotely operated underwater vehicles, or ROVs.

ROVs are tethered and unoccupied vehicles that can be operated by someone aboard a surface vessel.

The company's production and infrastructure business supplies surface process and pipeline gear such as tanks, pressure vessels, modular process plants and manifolds. It also provides specialty pipeline construction equipment, valves and aftermarket services.

Subsea Business

The drilling and subsea business contributed 60% of Forum's second-quarter revenue with the production and infrastructure segment providing the rest.

Analyst Anderson sounds especially bullish on Forum's prospects in the subsea category.

"They are the manufacturing leader in work-class ROVs used in the construction and installation of equipment and systems on the seabed," he noted. "Forum is effectively operating at full utilization right now with a 12- to 18-month lead time for new orders compared to a typical cycle time of five to six months."

Anderson expects an increase in offshore development activity that will likely last the next three to five years.

"Several of Forum's customers are getting ready to place big orders for new equipment," Anderson noted. "In addition to customers needing ROVs for new construction vessels, older ones also need to be replaced after about a five- to seven-year cycle time."

Forum's drilling and subsea business pitched in Q2 revenue of $223 million, up 17% from the prior year. All three product lines within the drilling and subsea segment posted year-over-year growth, with the drilling technologies product line delivering a gain of nearly 20%.

Revenue Growth

Production and infrastructure revenue for the quarter climbed 30% to $151 million, led by a top-line gain of 40% for Forum's production equipment product line. Its valve solutions product line also delivered strong revenue and margin growth, thanks to improved distribution and strong market penetration of new valve products.

"Our revenue growth was attributable to an increase in demand for many of our products, such as our deepwater ROVs and wellsite production and process equipment," Forum Chief Executive Cris Gaut said in a statement.

Overall revenue grew 45% from a year earlier to $373 million, slightly above estimates. Earnings came in at 49 cents a share, also beating views.

"The primary drivers of the beat were strong drilling and subsea results, low corporate expenses and accrued contingent benefits," Shoemaker noted.

On the downside, Forum lowered its full-year earnings guidance, citing weakness in the U.S. land market. But JPMorgan's Anderson downplayed the issue.

"Essentially, it was an inventory destocking issue that will self-correct by the end of the year, even with the U.S. land rig count expected to be flat or slightly down," he noted.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Forum to post full-year profit of $1.94 a share this year and $2.14 a share in 2013.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas

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