With three of Australia’s largest listed oil and gas producers all reporting lacklustre profit results this week it is arguably a brave analyst who would slap a “buy” recommendation on any of these energy stocks.

According to Reuters’ tally of consensus estimates however, there are 5 buy/outperform recommendations on Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL); 7 buy/outperform recommendations on Santos Ltd (ASX: STO); and 9 buy/outperform recommendations on Origin Energy Ltd (ASX: ORG).

With the share prices of all three stocks still in the doldrums, for contrarian investors willing to take a long term view on the oil price cycle, now could be a compelling buying opportunity.

Here’s a quick recap of what was reported this week:

Woodside: For the six months ending June 30, profit fell 50% to US$340 million due to an average 26% decline in the realised oil price. The interim dividend was chopped down by 48% to US 32 cents. The company’s balance sheet remains in good shape, leading many investors to assume Woodside will play a leading role in merger and acquisition activity. The company has achieved significant cost reductions, lowering its average cost of production by 38%.

Santos: The interim results for Santos saw the interim dividend scrapped and a net loss of US$1.1 billion recorded largely on account of write-downs on the group’s LNG investment. The underlying result was less bad, a loss of US$5 million.

Origin Energy Ltd: The full year statutory loss was $589 million after tax impairments of $515 million were taken due to a downward revision of reserves. The underlying profit fell from $682 million to $365 million. The final dividend was sliced to zero from 25 cps. The balance sheet debt remains elevated but Origin did achieve a $4 billion reduction in debt. Meanwhile, the company reported pleasing progress on cost reductions.

Oil Price Rebounds

The oil price has rallied from a 13-year low of US$27 a barrel in January to trade today at levels above US$50. The recent oil price rise is certainly a positive for producers, however, the major cost saving and balance sheet strengthening initiatives are also key factors in a brighter long-term outlook for Woodside, Santos and Origin.

While there are plenty of complexities involved in analysing the energy sector, rather than being put off by the large, reported headline losses, contrarian investors will see the current turmoil as a breeding ground for opportunity.

Forget companies cutting dividends like Santos and Origin when you can get GROWING dividends.

Oil stocks don't look like the place to be for income-seeking investors but The Motley Fool has identified a stock that is! This "dirt cheap" company. is growing like gangbusters, and trading on a fat dividend yield, FULLY FRANKED. With interest rates set to stay at these low levels for years to come, for income-hungry investors, including SMSFs, this ASX company could be the "Holy Grail" of dividend plays for 2016. Click here to gain access to this comprehensive FREE investment report, including the name of this fast growing ASX dividend share. No credit card required.

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Motley Fool’s #1 Dividend Pick for 2017!

With its shares up 155% in just the last five years, this ‘under the radar’ consumer favourite is both a hot growth stock AND our expert’s #1 dividend pick for 2017. Now we’re pulling back the curtain for you... And all you have to do to discover the name, code and a full analysis is enter your email below!

Simply enter your email now to receive your copy of our brand-new FREE report, “The Motley Fool’s Top Dividend Stock for 2017.”

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our https://www.fool.com.au/financial-services-guide">Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.

Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur owns shares in Origin Energy Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.