Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (NYSE: HP) reported net income of $95 million, or $0.94 per diluted share, from operating revenues of $677 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2023, compared to net income of $78 million, or $0.77 per diluted share, from operating revenues of $660 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2023. The net income per diluted share for the first quarter of fiscal 2024 and fourth quarter of fiscal 2023 include $(0.03) and $0.08 of after-tax losses and gains, respectively, comprised of select items(2). For the first quarter of fiscal year 2024, select items were comprised of:
- $(0.03) of after-tax losses related to the non-cash fair market value adjustments to our equity investments
Net cash provided by operating activities was $175 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2024 compared to net cash provided by operating activities of $215 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023.
President and CEO John Lindsay commented, "The Company performed well both operationally and financially during the first fiscal quarter of 2024 despite the persistent volatility in crude oil and natural gas prices. During the quarter, the Company's stock price continued to trade as it has historically, with a strong correlation to crude oil prices and industry rig count. Decoupling from these traditional macro measures will require proving our ability to maintain returns above our cost of capital through the cycles, and I believe our fiscal first quarter results are another step in that direction.
"Expectations for modest incremental rig adds during the quarter were further tempered to some extent by the ongoing churn we are experiencing in the market and, as a result, we exited the December quarter at 151 active rigs, towards the lower end of our guidance range. We expect this churn to continue in the March quarter as E&P budgets are being reset in a relatively weaker commodity price environment, particularly on the natural gas side. From a North America Solutions margin perspective, the Company delivered direct margins that were higher on a sequential basis, indicating that our direct margins, like our rig count, may have experienced a trough during our fourth fiscal quarter of 2023. Looking out, we project our North America Solutions direct margins to remain relatively flat to up slightly during the March quarter.
"In our International Solutions segment, we are very excited regarding recent developments that are tangible proof of the execution of our international expansion strategy. The Company recently received preliminary notification, subject to finalization of contractual agreements, that it has been awarded seven super-spec FlexRigs for work in a drilling campaign in the Middle East. These rigs are expected to commence operations shortly after delivery, which is currently scheduled for the first half of fiscal 2025. Additionally, these rigs will be sourced from our idle super-spec rigs in the U.S., converted to walking configurations, and further equipped to suit contractual specifications. Furthermore, in the Middle East, we have been successful in contracting an additional rig in Bahrain. The super-spec rig to be utilized for this work is already located in the region as part of our Middle East hub and it is expected to commence operations during the summer of 2024. These are positive outcomes in our Middle East expansion strategy, and we look forward to further growth in the future."
Senior Vice President and CFO Mark Smith also commented, "During the quarter, we executed on our fiscal 2024 supplemental shareholder return plan, returning approximately $42 million to shareholders in the form of base and supplemental dividends. Additionally, we exhausted our calendar 2023 share repurchase authorization of 7 million shares by repurchasing roughly 1.3 million shares for approximately $47 million. At the start of the new calendar year, our share repurchase authorization was reset to 4 million shares. These actions demonstrate our prioritization of returning cash to shareholders and highlight our shareholder capital allocation strategy.
"Given the outlook for a lower level of crude oil production growth in the U.S. in 2024, combined with the recent volatility in commodity prices, we expect our rig count will only grow modestly in fiscal 2024. That is something we had already contemplated as part of our fiscal 2024 capex budget, so we do not currently believe we need to modify our capex plans. We believe current conditions highlight the continued need to remain focused on our NAS margins and reinforce support for the international expansion strategy we are undertaking. Along those lines, the planned capex for the recent seven-rig award was included in our fiscal 2024 capex budget that we announced last October. Furthermore, this award supports our goals of not only expanding internationally, but also reducing the available supply of our idle super-spec rigs in the U.S. market."
John Lindsay concluded, “Every year in this industry new challenges arise, many resulting from supply and demand dynamics that ultimately result in crude oil and natural gas price volatility. As difficult as it is to manage in these times, we also see these headwinds as opportunities to showcase the exceptional capabilities of our fleet and to demonstrate the value our technology, processes and people bring to providing drilling solutions for our customers. For our part, we will remain focused on our goals and execute toward their achievement in the long term. Our recent successes on the international front are evidence of this with our announcement of securing work for eight rigs in the Middle East, subject to finalization of contractual agreements. Including the one rig contracted in August 2023, we now have plans to put nine additional rigs to work in the Middle East, which when they begin operations will nearly double our existing international active rig count."