UPDATE 1-Baker Hughes 1st-qtr profit beats estimates
* Q1 EPS $0.86 vs est. $0.80
* Q1 rev up 18 pct
April 24 (Reuters) - Baker Hughes Inc posted a better-than-expected profit helped by improved performance at its international business, but the world's third-largest oilfield services company said pricing pressure in the North American market will likely extend through the year.
Baker Hughes said last month that its North American profit margins were hit by a shift of U.S. drilling activity from natural gas-producing areas to liquids-rich basins, along with pressure on hydraulic fracturing pricing.
"It is clear that the overall market is experiencing pricing pressure that is likely to extend throughout 2012," Chief Executive Martin Craighead said in a statement.
Baker Hughes said it was improving its distribution network, and increasing supplies of critical raw materials.
"We expect to realize significant benefits from these improvements in the second half of 2012," Craighead said.
First-quarter net profit fell to $379 million, or 86 cents a share, from $381 million, or 87 cents per share, a year earlier.
Analysts on an average were expecting a profit of 80 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 18 percent to $5.36 billion.
Last week, larger rivals Schlumberger and Halliburton Co highlighted similar challenges across the industry, but posted profits ahead of estimates as the effect was less dramatic than expected.
Baker Hughes' stock has fallen 16 percent since the start of the year, compared with a 5 percent decline for Halliburton and a 4 percent gain for Schlumberger, the global leader in the sector.