* Shares down 2 pct after rivals perform even better
* CEO sees likely increase in client spending in 2014
By Braden Reddall
Oct 21 Buoyant oilfield activity in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Angola helped Halliburton Co narrowly beat expectations on Monday with a 17 percent rise in third-quarter profit, but its shares slipped since its main competitors did even better.
The world's second-largest oilfield services company has been chasing opportunities outside its traditionally dominant U.S. market to better take on larger rival Schlumberger Ltd , which also topped estimates with quarterly profits.
"Our Eastern Hemisphere growth continues to lead our peer group," Halliburton Chief Executive Dave Lesar said. "Consistent with prior years, we expect the fourth quarter in the Eastern Hemisphere to be our strongest quarter of the year due to seasonal year-end software and equipment sales."
The international expansion has come at a cost. Lesar said the company has invested close to $1 billion in recent years in a new Singapore facility and technology centers in Houston, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.
Third-quarter net profit rose to $706 million, or 79 cents per share, from $602 million, or 65 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue rose 5 percent to $7.47 billion.
Excluding restructuring charges, the company reported earnings of 83 cents per share, a penny above analysts' average forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Halliburton executives warned last month of the restructuring impact along with a profit reduction of 2 to 3 cents per share due to flooding in Colorado oilfields.
The company said revenue grew 2 percent in North America despite the floods, while adjusted operating income climbed 4 percent on a seasonal recovery in Canada and deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Halliburton expects some of the logistical challenges from the flooding to linger into the current quarter.
Along with Schlumberger, rival Baker Hughes Inc posted higher-than-expected earnings on Friday, boosted by offshore drilling and activity outside North America.
Analysts at Tudor Pickering Holt said the strength of the results from its two rivals may have been raised the bar a bit for Halliburton. Sterne Agee analyst Stephen Gengaro summed up the quarter as "no major surprises" but reiterated his "buy" rating on Halliburton shares and a price target of $63.
Shares of Halliburton fell nearly 2 percent to $51.44. The stock had risen 41 percent in the previous six months, compared with 34 percent for Schlumberger and 27 percent for Baker Hughes.
Based on conversations with clients, Lesar said he expected client spending to increase in 2014 even though it may not show up in the rig count because customers were pushing hard to do more with less at well sites.
Baker Hughes expects the U.S. rig count it compiles to average 1,750 rigs for 2013, down 9 percent from 2012, although the industry is drilling about 6 percent more wells per rig. On the other hand, the international count was expected to average 1,300 rigs in 2013, up 5 percent.