Thursday, August 25, 2011

Computer Modelling Group ( Toronto - CMG ) -- Breaks Through in the Middle East

Computer Modelling Group ( CMG $13.00) reported excellent on target Q1 (June) results.  The company is a leading provider of reservoir simulation software that helps energy companies extract reserves most efficiently.  Its expertise is in heavy oil, tar sands, and other challenging deposits.  Competition is provided by Halliburton and Schlumberger, which provide software better suited to "black oil" reserves that are easier to lift.  Those companies are major energy service providers that enjoy strong marketing connections to many large customers, particularly national oil companies.  In the June quarter Computer Modelling made the largest sale in its history to a Middle Eastern national oil company, displacing Schlumberger.  The deal drove earnings up directly by 50% to $.18 a share.  Creation of such a prominent reference account could pave the way for transactions with additional Middle East customers in future periods. 

Demand from tar sand producers in Canada remains intact despite recent declines in worldwide energy prices.  Technology improvements, some provided by Computer Modelling, are keeping costs on a downward sloping curve.  Environmental objections are being overcome.  And construction of a pipeline to get the oil to world markets is likely to begin fairly soon.  The Canadian government would prefer to direct the pipeline to the United States.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has raised a wide range of objections to the project, though, which probably won't be resolved before the 2012 election.  Whether the Canadians will wait that long remains to be seen.  The Chinese government appears willing to fund an alternative project ending at the west coast, the plan being to ship the oil across the Pacific.  Either way, production is likely to keep expanding in the Alberta tar sands region.

The "DRMS" offshore software project is nearing completion.  Shell and Petrobas provided two thirds of the funding for that effort, even though Computer Modelling will keep 100% ownership of the technology.  The two majors will get to use the software first, and they get the right to market it on a commission basis, as well.  Shell and Petrobas plan to test the software in their own operations starting in Q3 (December).  Commercial sales are expected to begin late next year.

For fiscal 2012 (March), we are raising our earnings estimate by a nickel to $.65 a share (+27%).  Excluding any DRMS contribution gains of 15%-20% appear sustainable in subsequent years.  If the company makes further inroads in the Middle East substantially faster growth could emerge.  The odds of that happening appear favorable.  The DRMS line is a wild card, but it too appears to offer terrific potential.  Downside risk is muted by the 4% cash dividend. 

( Click on Table to Enlarge )

Monday, August 8, 2011

Computer Modelling Group ( Toronto - CMG ) -- Order Rate Improving

Stock price reflects 2-for-1 split.

Computer Modelling Group (CMG $10.75) appears on track to report excellent on target Q1 (June) results.  Orders for the company's energy development simulators remain vibrant, despite the recent decline in oil prices.  Project activity hasn't diminished in Canada.  And the company is continuing to make competitive inroads in other geographies.  Computer Modelling is the leading provider of reservoir simulation software for heavy oil, oil sand, and other challenging targets.  New discoveries are becoming increasingly more difficult to recover, boosting interest in the company's technology.  Financial results might be less dynamic than Computer Modelling's unit volume gains due to currency factors.  Most of the company's personnel (costs) are in Canada, while more than 70% of sales are priced in U.S. Dollars.  The Canadian currency has been relatively stronger this year, creating a negative translation effect.    Even so, pretax margins are likely to remain in the 45%-50% vicinity.

The DRMS software will enter beta testing in Q4.  That technology simulates the above ground operations at energy projects, allowing customers to maximize all aspects of the work, not just extracting the oil.  Petrobas and Shell are footing the bill for the development work and will get first shot at the software.  But Computer Modelling will retain all rights to the software and will be able to market it to anyone once it is commercialized in 2012.  Final work is focusing on integrating the simulators with customer databases and other computer resources, simplifying the user interfaces so engineers can use the technology without extensive training, and speeding up the processing speed even more.  In laboratory testing the new programs already run faster than the company's existing products.

Results will be affected by mix between perpetual and annual licenses.  Perpetual buyers spend more up front.  Annual deals generate higher recurring revenue.  Either way, the total number of licenses in force is poised to keep advancing.  Demand for oil is likely to remain robust at least for several more decades.  Computer Modelling is a key player in developing new reserves to meet that projected demand.  The new product line could amplify results further.  The shares remain a solid investment.