(Reuters) - Schlumberger Ltd (SLB.N), the world's top oilfield services company, said on Friday its fourth-quarter earnings would be hurt by weaker-than-expected drilling activity in North America and contract delays in Europe and Africa.
The forecast sent shares of the company down 5.8 percent.
Oil and gas companies have slowed onshore exploration in North America as drilling budgets for the year are exhausted and prices for natural gas and natural gas liquids remain low.
Schlumberger estimated the slowdown will hurt its earnings by 5 cents to 7 cents per share in the fourth quarter.
Dahlman Rose & Co cut its earnings expectations for the company to $1.07 per share from $1.13 after the company's profit warning. Analysts' average estimate was $1.13, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Schlumberger's profit warning may telegraph fourth-quarter weakness for oil and gas companies, analysts at Robert W. Baird said in a note to clients.
At first glance, the warning "seems like a negative read on fourth-quarter exploration and production activity and management outlooks entering the new year," they wrote.
International drilling activity, which helped Schlumberger report better-than-expected third-quarter results, has begun to slow down due to uncertainty about the world economy.
Europe, Russia and Africa were seeing higher-than-usual seasonal slowdown in activity, Schlumberger said. Those regions contributed 27 percent of the company's oilfield service revenue of $31 billion in the first nine months of 2012. North America accounted for about a third.
International capital expenditures on oil and gas exploration are expected to rise next year, but the "rate of growth in 2012 will be difficult to match due to the absence of surplus cash flow generation for (international oil companies) and ongoing introspection in Brazil," analysts at Houston-based energy investment bank Simmons & Co wrote.
Shares of Schlumberger were down $4.24 to $68.32 in late-morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of rival Halliburton Co (HAL.N) fell 1 percent to $33.14, while Baker Hughes Inc (BHI.N) stock dropped 3 percent to $40.91.