JP Morgan: Our 3 Top Energy Stock Picks Right Now

JP Morgan has just held its fourth annual Energy Conference in New York with ~140 energy companies participating. It hasn’t been an easy time for energy stocks recently, and the firm noted: “The conference boosted our confidence that the leading companies are taking the austerity mantle seriously.” Nonetheless, there are some gems to be found- if you know where to look.

Luckily for investors, following the conference, the firm revealed its top energy stock picks to buy now. Here we take a closer look at three of the most intriguing stocks highlighted by the firm. Note that two of these stocks also boast a ‘Strong Buy’ consensus from the Street. That’s based on all the ratings received by these stocks over the last three months.

TechnipFMC PLC (FTI)

With operations spanning 48 countries, TechnipFMC is a global oil and gas company that provides complete project life cycle services. Essentially, FTI covers three distinct segments: subsea, offshore/ onshore and surface projects. After a disappointing 2018, shares have rallied so far this year- rewarding investors with a 27% gain year-to-date.  

According to JP Morgan “LNG [liquid natural gas] continues to look like the one proper cycle to which investors should have exposure, and though options in our coverage are limited, we came away from the conference with incremental confidence in our OW FTI call.” And as the firm added, it helps when a +$1bn award hits mid-event!

On June 18 Anadarko Petroleum (APC) awarded Technip a number of subsea contracts for its Mozambique Golfinho/Atum development. This will be Mozambique’s first onshore LNG development, and FTI will now also open a new office in Mozambique to manage the operation.

Indeed, the future appears bright for Technip stock. That's thanks to the company's unique integrated model. The company reduces costs for customers by optimizing subsea architecture and integrating execution (i.e. engineering, procurement, construction, and installation.)

“E&P openness to new commercial models for offshore is accelerating, and FTI appears a primary beneficiary” says JP Morgan. “With BHGE highlighting its Subsea Connect and SLB doing the same for the Subsea Integrated Alliance, it’s clear to us the market is moving towards FTI’s integrated model.”

Net-net, “TechnipFMC continues to stand out to us as the provider both growing the pie and taking a bigger slice” concludes the firm. Indeed, FTI boasts a ‘Strong Buy’ Street consensus, with 9 recent buy ratings vs just 1 hold rating. Meanwhile the $29 average analyst price target indicates upside potential of 19% from current levels.

Halliburton (HAL)

One of the world's largest oil field service companies, Halliburton sums up its operations as helping customers maximize value throughout the lifecycle of the reservoir. However, that strategy has not delivered much value for investors in recent years. Right now HAL is trading down 14% year-to-date, and that’s on the back of further losses in both 2017 and 2018.

Not that this has deterred JP Morgan. The firm writes “Shares of HAL have come under fire (alongside the group) as buy side concerns grow regarding its ability to deliver on the Street’s 2H19 bar. After giving back -27% since 4/17, it appears to us much of the impact of a shortfall in 4Q19 C&P [completion and production] is already reflected in the stock.”

And the firm reminds investors why Halliburton deserves a closer look: “We continue to view HAL as relatively unique among our large cap stocks for its potential to create a step-change in FCF generation in 2020 through modestly higher profitability and measured capital spending.”

As a result, the firm reiterates its top pick status for HAL stock. That’s with a $34 price target (49% upside potential). In short, this is the largest and most liquid US completions-levered stock, and effectively the only remaining OFS (oilfield services) pure play large cap says JP Morgan.

Clearly the rest of the Street agrees. We can see that HAL shows a ‘Strong Buy’ analyst consensus. In the last three months, the stock has received 6 buy ratings and just 1 hold rating. With shares down 50% in the last year, the average analyst price target now suggests upside potential of over 75%.

MRC Global (MRC)

Welcome to JP Morgan’s third top energy stock pick. If you haven’t heard of MRC Global before, this is a company that distributes pipe, valve and fitting (PVF), products to the energy and industrial markets. "The continued commitment to discipline on working capital management and buying back shares keep MRC standing out within our smid-caps" explained JP Morgan post-conference.

Indeed, shares have performed strongly so far this year, recording an impressive 30% gain year-to-date. The company rallied following better-than-expected Q1 earnings. MRC revealed that it expects sales in Q2 to improve over Q1 by 6% to 9% and expects growth in the second half of the year as compared to the first half of the year.

“As the leading distributor of PVF to the energy industry, we are well-positioned with our customers. We're typically the large players in each of our diversified end-market sectors. This diversification provides us with a certain level of stability, gives us more opportunities to grow and provide some resilience to the inherent market changes” says CEO Andrew Lane.

However only two other analysts have recently published MRC ratings- and both these analysts rate the stock a ‘Hold.’ Stifel Nicolaus analyst Nathan Jones downgraded MRC a couple of months ago, citing valuation. Nonetheless his $20 price target still indicates 25% upside potential from the current share price.

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