Austria's SBO sees slower pick-up in oilfield spending
* Q1 orders fall to 93 mln euros from 129 mln year ago
* EBIT falls 18 pct to 23.2 mln euros, missing poll average
* CEO cautious on when orders likely to pick up
* Shares fall as much as 3.2 pct
By Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich
VIENNA, May 23 (Reuters) - Schoeller-Bleckmann Oilfield Equipment AG gave a more cautious forecast of when recession-hit customers would start spending on new gear again, instead of patching up what they already have.
The company, whose customers include Halliburton and Baker Hughes, has been suffering from the effects of economic uncertainty and recent falls in the price of crude oil and on Thursday reported first-quarter orders that missed analysts' forecasts.
"The longer the downturn goes on, the harder it will be (to make up lost ground)," Chief Executive Gerald Grohmann told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
"Then the question is whether the orders come in 2013 or in 2014. We are still early in the year so I don't want to give a forecast," he said.
In March, when the company reported a 30 percent drop in fourth-quarter orders, saying customers were repairing tools instead of buying new, Grohmann forecast orders would rebound by the second or third quarter.
He said on Thursday the market environment remained favourable overall, with oil prices above $100 a barrel encouraging companies to keep drilling. The question was when inventories would be run down enough to prompt new orders.
First-quarter orders fell to 93.3 million euros ($120.1 million) from 129.2 million a year earlier, missing the average estimate of 95 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Earnings before interest and tax fell 17.6 percent to 23.2 million, lagging the poll average of 25 million.
"SBO's customers are expected to further reduce their inventories of high-precision components gradually in the months ahead. If drilling activity continues this should increase the number of new orders coming in. However, it cannot be predicted how fast inventories will actually be reduced," SBO said.
SBO shares fell as much as 3.2 percent to 75 euros before edging off lows to 75.12 by 0830 GMT in a weaker market.
Baader Bank analyst Christine Reitsamer reiterated her sell recommendation on the stock, saying the quarterly operating margin had been a negative surprise, with hits from lower capacity usage and selected price adjustments.
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