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Weir’s woes signal the end for the US shale boom

A profit warning from the oilfield services group on Tuesday seemed to corroborate other evidence that an almost decade-long boom in oil project investment could be over

Weir Group - Weir’s woes signal the end for the US shale boom
Weir said orders for its oil and gas division were down 32% in the third quarter

A profit warning on Tuesday from Weir Group PLC (LON:WEIR) seems to be signalling the end of the boom in US shale that has driven recent strong performances for oil services firms.

The FTSE 250 firm said orders for its oil and gas division were down 32% in the third quarter, which the company blamed on “intensified” capital constraints in its North American market, with profitability expected to head further south for the remainder of its current financial year.

READ: Weir Group lowers full-year guidance for its oil & gas businesses following tough third quarter

Weir’s woes followed a similar warning from rival Hunting PLC (LON:HTG) in late-October when the group said its full-year profits would be pushed to the lower end of market expectations because of a continuing decline in US onshore drilling.

According to an analyst at a City investment bank, the downturn for Weir is the result of a “slowdown in investment” by oil companies, which in turn reduces demand for oilfield services.

This reduction follows the US shale boom, a period between 2010 and 2015 that saw substantial increases in oil and gas production through the use of ‘fracking’, a method of using high-pressure water and chemicals to break open rock underground and releasing natural resources.

This boom, in turn, drove interest in both onshore and offshore oil and gas projects, however, the analyst says that US shale market has since "matured" and “investors are [now] wanting less production and more cash flow”.

READ: Hunting warns profits under pressure from US drilling slowdown

The idea that the US’s shale revolution is coming to an end is corroborated by a September report from consultancy KPMG which said oilfield service providers had recorded their lowest level of transactions in five years.

Alan Kennedy, lead partner for oilfield services at KPMG, says that while there had been a huge boom in investment over the last decade or so, investors and companies were “getting far more cautious” in terms of backing new ventures.

“Buyers are cutting back the amount of money they spend, and that has impacted service providers that had quite a lot of growth over the last two or three years”, Kennedy tells Proactive.

He adds that the market is also seeing a cutback in investment as a result of global uncertainties such as the US-China trade war, which is having a knock-on effect on the price of oil and, therefore, on decisions to move forward with new projects.

Kennedy also says that the gloomier picture means 2019 has seen “less of a pick-up in offshore services than people originally thought”, meaning optimism for further recovery following the slide in crude to US$25 per barrel in 2015 has been dampened.

Looking ahead, Weir’s woes could also be a read-across for the wider industry, with fellow mid-cap peer John Wood Group PLC (LON:WG.) set to deliver a trading update in January.

Quick facts: Weir Group

Price: 1382.5 GBX

LSE:WEIR
Market: LSE
Market Cap: £3.59 billion
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