Phil Skolnick, the analyst who drew an obscenity from Encana Corp. on a recent conference call, has never been much of a fan of investing in the energy company.
Mr. Skolnick, who covers Encana for Canaccord Genuity, has had a "hold" rating on the stock for almost three years, the analysts' equivalent of "you can do better." It's been a good call, as Encana's stock has slumped the whole time, but it's not the kind of thing that endears someone to management. And it's not like he's alone: There are 18 hold ratings, five sells and only two buys on Encana stock, according to the analysts tracked by Bloomberg.
Mr. Skolnick is underwhelmed by Encana's strategic position as a natural-gas weighted player in a gas glut, and by the company's inability to generate enough cash flow from its businesses to fund expenditures. And he doesn't expect shareholders to be bailed out by an acquisition.
His most recent report, written on Feb. 14 after the conference call on which someone from Encana muttered unkind words following a question from Mr. Skolnick, is not exactly glowing.
"The company continues to struggle to find balance in its asset base organically owing to its large natural gas exposure," he said.
As to the question of whether Encana is an acquisition target – it was a query on the topic that seemed to prompt the obscenity – Mr. Skolnick said he thinks it is more likely that Encana is a buyer than a seller. He said he doesn't believe Encana can be bought by anyone non-Canadian, because it's a "flagship company" and the government would be loath to see the company's large, royalty-free land position in foreign hands.