Halliburton profit lifted by international growth

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Halliburton Co HAL.N said on Monday that first-quarter profit rose 6 percent, meeting Wall Street expectations, as customers in markets including the Middle East and Asia spent more on oil and gas exploration and production.

Halliburton headquarters near downtown Houston is shown in this May 9, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Richard Carson

Halliburton and rivals including Schlumberger Ltd SLB.N and Weatherford International Ltd WFT.N have seen faster growth in overseas markets, while North America has slowed.

Record crude oil prices and a two-year high in natural gas futures prices have prompted exploration companies to increase spending, leading to a more optimistic outlook--even in North America--for the oilfield services companies.

“The fundamentals of the world oil and gas market are projecting that the next leg up in this extended cycle is near,” Dave Lesar, Halliburton’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Lesar also said North America “ much stronger than may have been anticipated just a few months ago.”

Halliburton, which opened a headquarters in Dubai last year in a bid to win more international business, said first-quarter profit increased to $584 million, or 64 cents per share, from $552 million, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 64 cents, according Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 18 percent to $4 billion.

“I thought the commentary from management was very positive,” said Roger Read, oilfield services analyst with Natixis Bleichroeder. “They didn’t blow the quarter away, but they weren’t expected to. The first quarter is typically a tough one, with weather impact and product sales in the fourth quarter that don’t recur.

In North America, Halliburton’s revenue rose 11 percent to $1.86 billion while operating income was nearly flat at $491 million.

Halliburton said revenue outside North America soared 24 percent to $2.16 billion, while operating income rose 21 percent to $422 million.

Also on Monday, the company confirmed it won a large three-year contract for work in Saudi Aramco’s Manifa field, which has a production target of 900,000 barrels of oil per day.

In pre-market trading, shares of Halliburton edged up to $47.65 from their New York Stock Exchange close on Friday of $47.43.

Reporting by Anna Driver; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Steve Orlofsky