We’re now in month six of the bear market in Canadian energy with little indication that things will get better soon.
The latest setback to the sector came just a few weeks ago as Rachel Notley’s NDP party swept into power in Alberta, ousting the Progressive Conservative party on a platform of higher corporate taxes, a massive increase in the minimum wage, and a promised review of the royalties charged to energy companies.
Naturally, shares of Alberta’s leading energy producers haven’t done well since the election. Most companies in the sector have fallen some 10%, even though the price of crude has held ground near $60 per barrel. Some have even made the decision to stop drilling temporarily as they await word from Edmonton about the new royalty scheme.
In the short term, this obviously isn’t great news. But in the long term, it’s creating some interesting buying opportunities in the sector, like Husky Energy Inc. (TSX:HSE). Here’s why you should look at adding the beaten-down producer to your portfolio.
It gets no respect
Husky has downstream operations just like its larger competitors, like Suncor Energy and Imperial Oil. Both competitors have production that’s mostly focused on the oil sands, just like Husky. And all three companies have solid balance sheets with low debt levels. The downturn will have to last many more years before any of these companies get close to bankruptcy.
Here’s what I don’t understand.
Husky shares have fallen more than 35% over the last 52 weeks, while Suncor is down just 14.6%. Imperial Oil has performed the best of the three, falling less than 10% in the same time period.
One of the more interesting parts of Husky’s business is its exposure to Asia, where it has two major natural gas projects, one producing and one still in development.
The price of natural gas has been consistently higher in Asia because of increased demand and an inability to cheaply supply gas to the region from places like Canada, where we’re rich with supply. Plus, the number of taxis, buses, and big trucks that run natural gas in places like China and South Korea ensures consistent demand for the commodity. That’s good news for gas producers in the area.
Asian production is from the Liwan Gas Project, which is a $6.5 billion development about 300 kilometres off the coast of Hong Kong. In what now looks like a really smart move, all production has already been accounted for at a locked-in higher price from a couple years ago.
North American expansion
Husky also has a couple of new projects in North America that will add to the bottom line once completed.
The main one is the Sunrise oil sands project, which is expected to net 30,000 barrels of oil per day back to the company. There’s also several smaller thermal oil projects that are slated to add an additional 35,000 barrels to daily production. Between all these projects, production is slated to increase approximately 20% by the end of 2016.
Husky has also identified several potential drilling areas off the coast of Newfoundland, with first drilling expected to commence sometime soon. While this won’t materially add to earnings anytime soon, investors still have to be happy with the company’s continual diversification away from Alberta.
Plus, that dividend
One problem with buying some of the ultra-cheap junior oil stocks is they either don’t pay dividends, or they have payouts that are on thin ice—assuming they haven’t already been cut.
Admittedly, Husky’s 4.9% yield is in trouble if the price of oil doesn’t recover, but it can easily borrow to pay the dividend for a few quarters until that happens. And if crude continues to struggle later on in the year, it can always free up some capital by cutting capital expenditures. At this point, I wouldn’t be too worried about the sustainability of the dividend.
Husky is a growing producer with enough downstream operations and low-cost production to make it through the storm. Now that shares have fallen because of Alberta’s new government, it looks to be a good time to take advantage of what’s likely to only be a temporary sale.
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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.
Fool contributor Nelson Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned.