* SBO to swing to net profit in 2018
* North American business remains earnings driver
* New sanctions against Russia could impact business
* Shares up 2 pct, outperform oil sector
VIENNA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Oilfield equipment maker Schoeller-Bleckmann (SBO) announced a surge in second-quarter earnings on Thursday, putting it on course to return to a full-year net profit.
The Austrian group is emerging from a rough patch, triggered by the collapse of oil prices a few years ago, as recovering crude prices prompt producers to invest in new projects.
It reported an eightfold increase in operating profit for April-June, helped by a thriving North American business where its customers include industry giants Halliburton and Schlumberger.
SBO said its sales surged 40 percent in the quarter to 105.9 million euros ($121 million), benefiting in particular from strong demand for its drilling motors, circulation tools and repair and maintenance services in North America.
That helped group operating profit rise to 18.5 million euros, from 2.2 million a year earlier.
A company spokesman said Schoeller-Bleckmann expects to make a net profit this year, after a loss of 54 million euros in 2017.
SOB expanded its operations in North America in recent months and generates around 60 percent of its revenue from there.
Chief Executive Gerald Grohmann said U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies were not affecting SOB’s business in the United States.
“Our U.S. business is going very well, but that is because of the good oil markets and not for political reasons,” Grohmann told Reuters by phone.
SBO could be affected by new U.S. sanctions against Russia, where it has a small but “very profitable business”, Grohmann said, adding it was too early for an in-depth assessment.
“The question will be, whether or not we will be able to ship goods from Europe to Russia.”
SBO’s bookings increased 63 percent in the first six months of this year, and its order backlog had more than doubled to 89.6 million euros by the end of June, partly because companies started to invest in new exploration projects outside North America.
“It is our fundamental expectation that the upward trend that has set in will continue,” Grohmann said. “We expect our North American business to continue its strong growth this year and beyond, and we see the international markets further recover.”
The company did not give a profit estimate for this year. Analysts forecast a full year profit of 48.8 million euros on sales of 431 million euros, according to Thomson Reuters data.
SBO shares gained 2 percent to 97.90 euros. Since the beginning of the year, the stock has risen 15 percent, outperforming the European sector index, which gained 9 percent. ($1 = 0.8744 euros) (Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Susan Fenton)