Two years after oil prices began their drastic decline and brought the energy sector’s most recent boom to a grinding halt, they have begun to make a comeback in the first half of 2016. Middle market independent producers, however, have a long way to go before they return to healthy growth, with the near-term outlook looking bleak—and investor sentiment signalling that their mood towards middle market oil and gas companies has soured globally.
According to a new study from BDO, a leading global accounting and consulting firm, the median market cap among middle market oil and gas companies dropped 58% between 2014 and 2015—from USD $219 million to $91 million. Historic price-earnings (PE) ratios took a hit as well, decreasing as abruptly as earnings. The median historic PE ratio fell to 6.4 this year, compared to 12.4 last year and an overall high of 25.6 in 2010. Now that the sector has gotten its reality check, however, it is perhaps poised to make a steadier—and arguably more sustainable—recovery.
“The middle market has been instrumental in the growth of the international energy sector, helping to decentralise the industry and spread the wealth well beyond OPEC to all corners of the globe,” says Charles Dewhurst, Global Leader of the Natural Resources industry group at BDO. “But the rapid growth we saw over the past decade was unlikely to last, and it appears that many may have lost sight of the energy industry’s susceptibility to boom and bust cycles. But now that the oil price downturn has checked our collective hubris, we are in a position to reorient, re-evaluate and rebuild.”
These findings are from the BDO 2016 Global Energy Middle Market Monitor, which reviews and analyses financial data reported by 304 publicly traded middle market oil and gas companies from 37 country and international stock exchanges from 2010 to 2015. The companies analysed reported revenues up to $1.5 billion, with median revenue of $67.6 million. Companies were primarily traded on exchanges in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Additional findings from the BDO 2016 Global Energy Middle Market Monitor include:
Industry struggles with declining revenues, profits. Year-over-year changes in median annual revenue highlight that the pain of the price slump truly hit the global energy sector in 2015: The median revenue across all companies assessed fell by about 30%, from $96.9 million in 2014 to $67.6 million in 2015. As revenues have slipped, so have profits for middle market oil and gas companies. Globally, median pre-tax income declined from $5.9 million in 2014 to a net loss of $30.2 million in 2015, an overwhelming 614% decrease. After taxes, net income dropped from $5.1 million to a loss of $30.5 million, a seven-fold decline.
Energy companies fight to secure capital. As margins and investor confidence have slipped, oil and gas companies have struggled to secure capital to keep their businesses afloat. Last year’s Global Energy Middle Market Monitor found that companies had grown more leveraged as they turned to debt financing to weather the storm, and this year’s study reveals that this trend largely continued in 2015. The median debt ratio grew by nearly 25% this year, with Australia seeing debt ratios double. Meanwhile, the U.K. saw a modest 11% increase, while Canada and the U.S. saw median debt ratios largely in line with global trends.
North American companies see resilience in reserves vitality. Despite a daunting industry outlook, North American companies have found one bright point: robust reserves vitality. While median reserves in general have fallen 35% over the past year—from 51 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) to 33 million BOE—the median reserve replacement rate remains at 101%. Though less than last year’s median replacement rate, which reached more than 250%, the figure nevertheless demonstrates middle market North American companies’ ability to maintain momentum in the midst of declining prices.