National Oilwell Varco Earnings Call Nuggets: Backlog Growth and Deepwater Rigs

National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Backlog Growth

Marshall Adkins – Raymond James: That’s a great overview as usual and Pete you might have answered this first question I have a little bit in your summary there. But the biggest push back I get from investors on your story is the perception that the backlog – this great backlog growth we’re seeing right now hits the wall next year and some time in ’14. We got good visibility obviously this year with the rigs that have been order, but in ’14 that falls off and you’re not going to be able to replace that. So, how do you respond to those investors that the growth rate in ’15 and ’16 goes away?

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Merrill A. ‘Pete’ Miller, Jr. – Chairman and CEO: Great question, Marshall and I might tell you the quote that I think of is Mark Twain and it was ‘The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated’ and if I could kind of go into how many times I’ve been told that the backlog is dead, let’s go back to ’08, if you’re going to lose half of your backlog – three quarters of your backlog and we lost about 3% when financial crisis occurred and we’ve been told numerous times about the fact that well, people just aren’t going to keep ordering. The fact to the matter is we feel very good about the prospects as we look into the future, I could talk that are blue in the face and people are going to believe what they want to believe on that. But take look at the jack-up market, how many times, have you heard about the depth of the jack-up market and yet this quarter, we just had a plethora of jack-ups order and we continue to see a very active area in that arena. And you also have to understand that lot of these shipyards in places like Korea, China and Singapore, the shipyards are in fact the driver of their economic growth and they are going to do everything they can to try keep those shipyards filled with things and I think you are going to continue to see, very attractive prices that are drawn after for a lot of the deepwater drillers. And if you take a look that the number of people on the rig side there while it seems big on historical basis, it’s really a fraction of probably how many rigs we really need to be able to explore the deepwater basins all over the world. So, we – and coupled back there with the fact that we are expanding in the FPSO arena and when you take a look at what has to happen with FPSOs. I mean the approved solution for production on all these deepwater wells being drilled today is going to be the FPSO arena and we have positioned ourselves to be able take great advantage of that. We’ll continue to look at ways to find different companies and also acquire things, so that we can expand that even further. So, we feel very comfortable that we are going to continue to have a solid backlog that is going to lead to growth for NOV.

Marshall Adkins – Raymond James: One quick, somewhat unrelated follow-up and that’s really more a clarification. It sounds – the margins obviously in Rig Tech are a little less than some of us thought, I think you detailed why pretty well, but it sounds as if you expect to rebound once we get past these abnormal hotshot or transportation expenses and that the one-time start-up costs fade over the next couple quarters, did it hear that right?

Merrill A. ‘Pete’ Miller, Jr. – Chairman and CEO: That’s exactly correct Marshall. We have $32 million in net project expenses that hit this quarter and then $10 million and sort of start-up costs around the globe and the start-up costs will linger for a while. But the $32 million cost roll was all booked this quarter. So we are confident we are going to end up in the 22%, 23% range going forward.


Deepwater Rigs

James Crandell – Cowen Securities: First question concerns deepwater, I guess how many deepwater rigs did you book in the first quarter? I assume by your comments that you booked the first three out of the nine in Brazil and there’s another six to come? Also could you comment on China, Pete? I know you had, I guess three deepwater rigs in the fourth quarter come out of the Chinese yards. Have there been any more and I guess over the course of this year, how many Chinese yards do you think could become engaged in deepwater rig construction?

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Clay C. Williams – President and COO: You’re correct, Jim. We booked a total of eight floaters. Three of the floaters were for Brazil. As I said in my comments, we’re hopeful that the last six there will also flow in once we get down payments on those rigs. So that’s the situation in Brazil. The other five were elsewhere around the globe, but more centered in the traditional shipyards. With regards to the Chinese yards, they’ve been very active on the jack-up front and gaining share there on the jack-up awards. Floaters they’re interested in, but that’s a little slower in developing.

James Crandell – Cowen Securities: Pete I know you spent – as you said, you spent some time in Russia – my understanding and tell me if I’m wrong here, is that Russian companies have to retire the sub-basin mass in Russia after 25 years and will operators do this or do you think a number of them that you are speaking with aren’t interested in upgrading their rigs, but there will be new equipment, hence your new facility over there?

Merrill A. ‘Pete’ Miller, Jr. – Chairman and CEO: Jim, actually yeah. They do need to redo their rigs after 25 years and I think that there is a tremendous interest level on getting new equipment and better technology. I think the Russians now that the – effectively they’ve got 1980s vintage rigs and the difference between an 80s vintage rig and the line rig today is night and day. So, we’re confident that they are going to upgrade those rigs and I think that’s going to be a multi-year expansion that’s really going to play well into our hands. I mean just about every place we go we like to have a lot of local content for a lot of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because your transportation charges are lower dramatically trying to get the rigs to the end user. But we’ll have our new facility up and running by next year and in that facility we’ll be building both rigs and a lot of our other equipment, but the Russians really have a demand for that technology and we’re very bullish on what we’re going to see over there in the next couple of years. And I think they are going to have to retire a lot of those rigs not only by because of the law, but also because of just the need for better drilling efficiencies.

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James Crandell – Cowen Securities: Pete one quick last final question is, I know you’ve been bullish on the outlook for FPSO orders and I know you’re not getting package orders and it’s coming in the way of individual products, but could you characterize the magnitude of the pickup that you are seeing in the last one or two quarters and then take it through maybe this calendar year into 2014 and in terms of the projected magnitude of the pickup?

Merrill A. ‘Pete’ Miller, Jr. – Chairman and CEO: Jim this quarter we had products, major sales for turret mooring systems and (indiscernible) products into four projects there, which is a very big pickup as we’ve talked about on previous quarters our orders have been pretty slow there in that business, despite a lot of feed study activity, a lot of conversations with customers throughout last year, and even going back to 2011 and so, in final we are very pleased to see a sharp pick up in orders. And then in Q2 we expect even more and so the trajectory is finally moving in a right direction, the way we’re confident it would, so very, very pleased to see that pick up. But that and I’ll add so that’s an addition to the flexible pipe sales, composite pipe, Hose Reel Systems, Dryser Pull Systems, other components that we sell in FPSOs broadly. So generally, I think we are seeing that whole market start to pick up as we have expected, and I’m pleased to see the direction that it’s going.

A Closer Look: National Oilwell Varco Earnings Cheat Sheet>>