Head-To-Head Survey: SAExploration (SAEX) versus ION Geophysical (IO)

ION Geophysical (NYSE: IO) and SAExploration (NASDAQ:SAEX) are both small-cap oils/energy companies, but which is the superior business? We will compare the two businesses based on the strength of their analyst recommendations, dividends, risk, institutional ownership, profitability, valuation and earnings.

Analyst Recommendations

This is a breakdown of current recommendations and price targets for ION Geophysical and SAExploration, as reported by MarketBeat.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
ION Geophysical 0 0 3 0 3.00
SAExploration 0 0 0 0 N/A

ION Geophysical currently has a consensus price target of $35.00, indicating a potential upside of 23.46%. Given ION Geophysical’s higher possible upside, research analysts clearly believe ION Geophysical is more favorable than SAExploration.

Risk and Volatility

ION Geophysical has a beta of 2.84, meaning that its share price is 184% more volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, SAExploration has a beta of 0.25, meaning that its share price is 75% less volatile than the S&P 500.


This table compares ION Geophysical and SAExploration’s net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
ION Geophysical -12.76% -49.23% -6.13%
SAExploration -64.01% -332.36% -31.63%

Institutional and Insider Ownership

36.5% of ION Geophysical shares are owned by institutional investors. Comparatively, 74.1% of SAExploration shares are owned by institutional investors. 15.2% of ION Geophysical shares are owned by insiders. Comparatively, 4.1% of SAExploration shares are owned by insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that large money managers, hedge funds and endowments believe a company is poised for long-term growth.

Earnings & Valuation

This table compares ION Geophysical and SAExploration’s top-line revenue, earnings per share and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio Net Income Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
ION Geophysical $197.55 million 2.00 -$30.24 million ($1.61) -17.61
SAExploration $127.02 million 0.18 -$40.75 million N/A N/A

ION Geophysical has higher revenue and earnings than SAExploration.


ION Geophysical beats SAExploration on 10 of the 11 factors compared between the two stocks.

About ION Geophysical

ION Geophysical Corporation provides geoscience products, services, and solutions to the oil and gas industry worldwide. It operates through three segments: E&P Technology & Services, E&P Operations Optimization, and Ocean Bottom Services. The E&P Technology & Services segment offers complete seismic data services, including survey design and planning, data acquisition, project management, advanced processing, and imaging services, as well as reservoir characterization and interpretation services. The E&P Operations Optimization segment provides command and control software systems, as well as related software and services for towed marine streamer and ocean bottom seismic operations, and for survey design. This segment also manufactures and repairs marine towed streamer acquisition and positioning systems, and analog geophone sensors. The Ocean Bottom Services segment offers survey design, planning, and optimization services to maximize seismic image quality, operational efficiency, and safety; data acquisition; and data processing, interpretation, and reservoir services. This segment also manufactures re-deployable ocean bottom cable seismic data acquisition systems. ION Geophysical Corporation markets and sells its services and products through direct sales force and third-party sales representatives. The company was formerly known as Input/Output, Inc. and changed its name to ION Geophysical Corporation in 2007. ION Geophysical Corporation was founded in 1968 and is headquartered in Houston, Texas.

About SAExploration

SAExploration Holdings, Inc., an oilfield services company, provides seismic data acquisition and logistical support services in Alaska, Canada, South America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. Its seismic data acquisition services include program design, planning and permitting, camp service, survey, drilling, recording, reclamation, and in-field data processing. The company acquires 2D, 3D, time-lapse 4D, and multi-component seismic data on land, in transition zones between land and water, and in offshore in depths reaching 3,000 meters. It operates crews that utilize approximately 27,500 owned land and marine seismic data acquisition equipment and other leased equipment. It serves oil companies, national oil companies, independent oil and gas exploration, and production companies. The company is headquartered in Houston, Texas.

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