Ensco PLC (ESV) and Atwood Oceanics (ATW) broke sharply higher on November 30th, followed by a second up day. Both days showed higher-than-average volume. The third day for both stocks saw a slight pullback in price.
These two companies make their living drilling in the ocean for oil companies. However, depressed oil prices have caused many oil companies to cancel or postpone expensive contracts to drill offshore, resulting in steep revenue declines for ATW and ESV. No doubt, the two stocks rose on optimism that rising oil prices would mean more revenues.
But that doesn't’ mean an investor can throw a dart and invest in whichever of the two stocks that dart lands on. (See also: Two Oil Plays with Offshore Drillers.)
ATW managed to remain profitable through the oil-price decline. Though it did not grow earnings, it kept its head above water with a significant profit margin. Despite the fact that ATW does not have a backlog of drilling contracts, it reduced expenses and stayed as healthy as could be expected.
Ensco, on the other hand, has been losing money. ESV has had a negative profit margin at -52.28%. As revenues have declined, the cost of revenues has remained about the same. This indicates the company has not been able to cut costs far enough to remain in the black.
If oil prices continue to rise, ESV has a long way to go to become profitable again. The stock most certainly could rise on better financial numbers. However, ATW starts from a position of being profitable. Rising oil prices would mean an improvement for an already profitable company. (See also: Which OPEC Country Has to Cut Their Oil Output?)
Investors may be more likely to flock to a healthy offshore driller instead of choosing one that is trying to repair damage. Atwood Oceanics is simply better positioned to invest in itself and acquire assets to improve income.