Less than two weeks in, 2018 is shaping up to be the year of the fracker. The world’s two biggest oilfield service providers, Schlumberger Ltd. and Baker Hughes, are the best performers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Energy Index this year.
Even smaller rivals are cashing in on investor enthusiasm over a 50 percent rise in oil prices since late June. Enter Liberty Oilfield Services Inc., the Denver-based provider of hydraulic fracturing that climbed 28 percent in its debut as a public company. After pricing its IPO at $17 a share, Liberty jumped to $21.77 in New York trading, boosting its market value to $2.6 billion.
“The timing has turned out well for us,” said Chris Wright, chief executive officer for the 6-year-old company, in a phone interview. “We’re basically a bunch of highly competitive tech nerds that built organically from the ground up a frack company.”
Oilfield-service providers, which oil companies hire to do everything from mapping prospects to maximizing field output, were the first to get clobbered when the worst crude-market crash in a generation kicked off in 2014. They accounted for the largest chunk of job cuts that cast hundreds of thousands out of work and incurred massive financial losses. Now, the service providers are poised to benefit more than any other subsector of the oil industry, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
One key profit driver for that tranche of companies has been ever-more-complex hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which entails blasting water, sand and chemicals deep underground
to release trapped hydrocar-bons, analysts Mark Rossano and Peter Pulikkan of Bloomberg Intelligence wrote in a report.