3 Oil Sector Bargains To Snap Up Now: Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Premier Oil PLC And San Leon Energy plc ord euro.01

Right now the oil sector is full of bargains for the astute, long-term investor. Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: RDSB)Premier Oil (LSE: PMO) and San Leon Energy (LSE: SLE) are three of the best opportunities, to my mind. 

Bigger is better

Shell has underperformed the wider FTSE 100 by around 20% excluding dividends year-to-date, making the company one of the index’s worst-performing stocks. 

However, for the long-term investor, these declines present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Indeed, Shell’s shares are now trading at their lowest level since the financial crisis, and the company is unlikely to go out of business any time soon. Net gearing was only 14.7% at the end of June and Shell’s management has begun an ambitious cost-cutting programme to boost the group’s profit margins. 

Cost-saving measures have already reduced Shell’s per-barrel operating costs by $10. What’s more, management is only approving the development of new production projects if they are affordable according to the prevailing environment — e.g. $50 per barrel oil. 

And according to my figures, these measures will ensure that Shell’s dividend yield of 7.9% remains safe for the time being. 

Bright outlook 

Like Shell, Premier Oil is also trading at a low not seen since the financial crisis. Also, just like Shell, for the long-term investor Premier presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

Unfortunately, City analysts expect the company to report a pre-tax loss of £71m this year, as one-off charges hit the group’s bottom line. Analysts are expecting a pre-tax profit of £65m for 2016 and this forecast is likely to be revised higher if oil prices recover. 

Within Premier’s post-summer operational update, issued today, the company reported that 60% of its production for the rest of the year is hedged at $92/bbl, and 30% of 2016 production is hedged at $68/bbl. Further, the group is forecasting a significant reduction in year-on-year capex for 2016 and has $1.3bn of liquidity.

Existing banking covenants have been renegotiated out to mid-2017 and the group’s principle $2.5bn bank facility is not for refinancing until mid-2019. In other words, Premier’s not under any financial stress and the group has plenty of balance sheet flexibility. 

In play 

Picking stocks in the small-cap oil & gas sector is not for the faint-hearted. You’re more likely to lose your shirt than become the next John Rockefeller. However, San Leon Energy could just be one of the small-cap oilies that has a shot at making it to the big time. 

Unlike other oil & gas minnows, the group already has producing assets and it is aiming to generate a profit from its core assets within three to four years. Four months ago the company announced that it had discovered more than 50bn cubic feet of proved and probable (2P) gas reserves at its Polish Rawicz project. And San Leon is one of Europe’s largest unconventional oil & gas companies in terms of acreage

Moreover, San Leon’s management revealed last month that the group has received a takeover approach, although the status of this offer remains unknown.

Still, San Leon is an interesting company with plenty of potential. But like all early-stage oil minnows, until the company can bring its assets on stream and start generating cash, it is a risky bet. 

If you're looking for a reduced risk opportunity, The Motley Fool's top analysts have recently identified a company that they consider to be one of the market's "top small caps".

The company in question has a strong cash balance, proven advantage and is supported by some of the biggest players in its industry.

If you'd like to find out more, all is revealed in our new free report entitled "Is This Stock Tomorrow's Big Winner?"

Our analysts reckon that the shares of this company could have a potential upside of 45%! So don't delay, download the free report today -- but hurry, it's only available for a limited time. 

Rupert Hargreaves owns shares of Royal Dutch Shell B. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.