The Premier Oil share price: is now the time to buy?

Roland Head revisits Premier Oil plc (LON: PMO) after the stock’s recent 20% slump.

| More on:

The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More.

Shares in debt-laden North Sea oil producer Premier Oil (LSE: PMO) have fallen by 20% over the last five weeks.

One reason for this is that oil prices have fallen sharply over the same period. But oil price aside, are there any other factors shareholders should be aware of? And are Premier shares still cheap?

I’ve been taking a closer look and will give my verdict below. I’ll also consider the investment case for another oil stock that looks cheap to me but offers limited visibility for shareholders.

Good progress

A trading update in May suggests that PMO boss Tony Durrant is continuing to deliver on his operational and financial targets.

Mr Durrant has increased production guidance for the year from 75k to 75k-80k barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd). He also advised investors that if oil prices stayed the same, debt reduction would be at the top end of the firm’s $250m-$350m target for the year.

It was a solid update that didn’t raise any red flags for me.

Are the shares still cheap?

As I’ve written before, Premier shareholders need to remember that the firm’s valuation is still dominated by its enormous debt pile.

Net debt fell from $2.33bn to $2.25bn (about £1.75bn) during the first four months of 2018. But that still dwarfs the market value of the firm’s shares, which is about £685m.

What this means is that when valuing these shares, we need to look at the firm’s enterprise value (market cap + net debt) to get the full picture.

At the time of writing, Premier’s enterprise value was about £2.5bn. That’s about 7.5 times last year’s free cash flow, which looks pretty affordable. The equivalent figure for Tullow Oil is about 11, for Royal Dutch Shell it’s around 12. However, both of these larger companies pay dividends and benefit from stronger balance sheets than Premier.

In my view, Premier shares are probably fairly valued at current levels. As debt continues to fall I’d expect the shares to make further gains. But the share price will remain very sensitive to changes in the oil price, so shareholders may need to be prepared for a lively ride.

A true bargain?

One oil stock that’s failed to benefit from strong market conditions is Asia-focused SOCO International (LSE: SIA). This former favourite has continued to drift lower over the last year and now trades at just 66p. That’s a 33% discount to the stock’s net asset value, which I estimate at 99p per share.

Why is SOCO so cheap? Unlike Premier and Tullow, it has net cash and a track record of generous dividends — the stock currently has a forecast yield of 6.8%. Another plus is that founder and CEO Ed Story still has a 3.5% shareholding, suggesting his interests should be well aligned with those of shareholders.

I think one reason why this stock keeps drifting lower is that the market isn’t sure where this business is going. Its Vietnam assets remain cheap to run and cash generative. But we don’t yet have much information about the performance of Merlon, a recent acquisition in Egypt.

In my view, SOCO carries some risk. However, the company’s historical performance and its focus on cash generation suggest to me that the shares should probably be worth more. I’d rate the stock as a contrarian buy.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

Roland Head owns shares of Royal Dutch Shell B. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

More on Investing Articles

Newspaper and direction sign with investment options
Investing Articles

When cheap markets meet favourable conditions, sentiment flips very quickly

London’s stock market is cheap — some sectors, even cheaper. Given a change in sentiment, the uprating could be substantial.

Read more »

Investing Articles

Empty Stocks and Shares ISA? I’d snap up these 3 stocks to start with!

Sumayya Mansoor explains how she would start to build wealth from scratch with an empty Stocks and Shares ISA and…

Read more »

Concept of two young professional men looking at a screen in a technological data centre
Investing Articles

7.7% yield and going cheap! Why is this unknown FTSE 250 stock flying?

It's no household name, but there's one FTSE 250 stock with a high dividend yield and booming profits that looks…

Read more »

Photo of a man going through financial problems
Investing Articles

I’d stop staring at the Nvidia share price and buy this FTSE 100 stock instead

This writer reckons there is a smarter way to invest in Nvidia today without taking on stock-specific risk. Here is…

Read more »

Young lady working from home office during coronavirus pandemic.
Top Stocks

5 stocks that Fools have been buying!

Our Foolish freelancers are putting their money where their mouths are and buying these stocks in recent weeks.

Read more »

Young Asian man drinking coffee at home and looking at his phone
Dividend Shares

These 3 FTSE 250 stocks offer me the highest dividend yields, but should I buy?

Jon Smith considers FTSE 250 shares with a very high yield, but questions whether the income is going to be…

Read more »

View of Tower Bridge in Autumn
Investing Articles

Is FTSE 100 takeover target DS Smith a great buy?

A mega-merger between FTSE 100 giants DS Smith and Mondi has the City abuzz. But is there any value in…

Read more »

Young Black man sat in front of laptop while wearing headphones
Investing Articles

The WPP share price dips as profits fall. Here’s why it could be a top dividend buy

I'm starting to think the WPP share price undervalues the stock, especially if the long-term dividend outlook comes good.

Read more »