Action In The Gulf Of Mexico

Tidewater is benefiting from the new swell of activity in America's gulf--the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, the operator of one of the largest fleets of vessels serving international offshore oil-drilling companies is expected to come back to profitability after six years in the red. Its stock, which was severely hammered from a high of 22 in mid-1990 to 11 in mid-January, has trudged back up to 15.

Tidewater "is making inroads in foreign markets, the most important of which is the Soviet Union," says money manager Rick Eakle, president of Eakle Associates in Fair Haven, N. J. He believes Tidewater is in talks with Soviet authorities about participating in that country's efforts to improve its oil-producing capacity.

Tidewater's marine-services unit, whose 274 vessels provide towing and anchor-handling of mobile drilling rigs and equipment, accounts for 68% of operating profits and 74% of sales. Tidewater also provides gas compressors to oil-and-gas and chemical companies, which account for 32% of earnings and 26% of sales.

With the rig count in the Gulf of Mexico rising--largely because of increased capital spending by the oil majors--Eakle expects Tidewater to earn $1.10 a share this year and $1.55 in 1992. He thinks the stock will double over the next 12 to 18 months, outperforming the oil-service biggies.

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