* Surveying for oil to become more profitable - CEO
* "Incredibly positive" outlook, says analyst
* Q4 EBITDA $145 mln vs forecast $126 mln
* 2012 EBITDA seen up 22-31 pct despite weak Q1
* Shares up 9 percent
(Adds CEO quotes, analyst, details, background, shares)
By Walter Gibbs and Henrik Stolen
OSLO, Feb 20 A jump in spending by oil
companies looking for new reserves is set to create a surge in
demand, and higher prices, for Norway's Petroleum Geo-Services
, whose technologies are used to find oil, it said on
Offshore survey demand has reached levels last seen in 2007,
before the finance crisis and then BP's 2010 Deepwater
Horizon blowout in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico caused demand to
plunge, PGS Chief Executive Jon Erik Reinhardsen said.
"We see bidding activity increasing sharply," he told
reporters and analysts.
Top oil companies like BP, Royal Dutch Shell
and Total have announced big increases in capital
spending in recent weeks as they step up the hunt for new
Industry experts who project a 10-percent rise in
exploraton-and-production spending by oil companies in 2012 may
be positively surprised, Reinhardsen said.
"We have seen companies upping their spending estimates even
further," he said, noting by comparison that global seismic
survey capacity was to grow six percent in both 2012 and 2013.
At 1145 GMT, PGS's shares were up 9 percent at 87.5 crowns,
a six-month high, after rising from 53.75 crowns on Dec. 15.
Shares in the sector have run up, sparked by a bullish view
of 2012 that PGS unveiled on Dec. 16 and subsequent positive
comments from Schlumberger's WesternGeco unit and TGS
"This is incredibly positive," said Fondsfinans analyst Paal
Dahl. "I don't think PGS has been so positive about market
prospects in the past three or four years."
The bullish outlook came as PGS, whose ship crews bounce
sound waves off the seabed in a search for oil and gas
reservoirs, posted surprisingly strong fourth-quarter results.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and
amortisation (EBITDA) came to $145 million in the quarter, while
analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast an average $126 million
after PGS lowered guidance in December.
That brought EBITDA for all of 2011 to $534.8 million,
producing an EBIT margin of 11 percent. The company reiterated
its guidance for 2012 EBITDA of $650-700 million, with an EBIT
margin of between 10 and 15 percent.
PGS has traditionally specialised in conducting seismic
surveys on exclusive contracts, but vessel oversupply has pushed
PGS toward multi-client sales in recent quarters - a profitable
change of tactic, it said.
"Strong Q4 multi-client late sales revenues offset the weak
utilization and productivity for marine contract work in the
quarter," Reinhardsen said.
"Late sales revenues in 2011 were by far the best in PGS'
He said 2012 has opened weakly, as forecast, due to price
pressure, idle vessels and fleet repositioning. But a demand
surge would soon begin to change that, he said, especially in
PGS's higher-margin contract business.
"There will be a shortness for capacity for the northern
areas this summer and we see that in the pricing," he said,
referring to the North Sea and the Barents Sea, where a series
of discoveries has buoyed optimism, as well as Greenland.
Demand was also expected to take off in Angolan waters and
the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, where the Obama administration has
resumed lease sales after a pause to recover from the Deepwater
France's CGG Veritas reports March 1.
($1 = 5.6918 Norwegian krones)
(Reporting by Oslo newsroom; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter and