Number Cruncher

Eleven U.S. energy stocks poised to withstand oil-price volatility

In this week’s filter created for The Globe and Mail, we screened for U.S energy companies that can withstand magnified volatility.

Market speculation around production cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the impact of U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela have been among the factors driving recent oil-price volatility. Today, we will identify U.S. energy companies whose healthy operations and strong fundamentals make them solid bets to withstand the heightened unpredictability. We screen the S&P 500 energy sector for quality companies by using the following criteria:

  • Market capitalization greater than US$5-billion;
  • Positive 12-month change in the economic value-added (EVA) metric – a positive figure shows us that the company’s profit is increasing at a greater pace than the cost of capital. The EVA is the economic profit generated by the company and is calculated as the net operating profit after tax (NOPAT) minus capital expenses;
  • A positive change in the 12-month NOPAT – a measure of operating efficiency that excludes the cost and tax benefits of debt financing by simply focusing on the company’s core operations net of taxes;
  • Future growth value/market value (FGV/MV) between minus 50 per cent and 50 per cent, to exclude companies with exaggerated discounts or premiums. FGV/MV represents the proportion of the market value of the company that is made up of future growth expectations rather than the actual profit generated. The higher the percentage, the higher the baked-in premium for expected growth and the higher the risk.
  • Free-cash-flow-to-capital ratio. This metric gives us an idea of how efficiently the company converts its invested capital to free cash flow, which is the amount left after all capital expenditures have been accounted for. It is an important measure because it gives us the company’s financial capacity to pay dividends, reduce debt and pursue growth opportunities. We are always looking for a positive ratio and more than 5 per cent is excellent.
  • Economic performance index (EPI), which is the ratio of return on capital to cost of capital, representing the wealth-creating ability of the company. Anything above one is favourable; the higher the figure the better.