The last five years has been one of the most challenging periods for the oilfield services sector in history. Following the collapse in activity due to the downturn in late 2014, oilfield service companies began to shift resources towards US unconventional plays which recovered ahead of the rest of the market.
Even prior to the current historic downturn, most OFS companies struggled to achieve profitability similar to pre-downturn levels due to continued overcapacity, intense competition leading to frustratingly low pricing, and operators capturing most efficiency gains. Now facing serious questions about sustainable long-term activity levels in shale, many OFS companies are shifting their focus towards offshore and international opportunities where structural changes in cost levels due to restructurings and more efficient development patterns have increased competitiveness.
At the same time, public OFS companies have had to confront record low share prices while private companies have seen financing (and exit opportunities) dry up. Many service companies have undergone restructuring, with some companies now candidates for secondary restructurings (or even liquidations) due to current market conditions. Much needed industry consolidation has been slow to materialize, though all stock deals seem to be the way forward for many companies.
Despite these challenging conditions, there are some companies that have found ways to be successful due to a focus on profitability and innovation. To drive success, companies need to learn how to operate in this new environment, right size their businesses to the realities of the current market, focus on cash flows and truly understand how they can outperform their competitors.