April 20, 2018 / 11:10 AM / a year ago

Schlumberger profit barely tops Street, says oil market balanced

(Reuters) - Schlumberger NV (SLB.N) on Friday reported first-quarter profit that scraped past estimates, but the stock fell 1.3 percent on a drop in oil prices and a jump in costs for the oilfield services provider.

The exterior of a Schlumberger Corporation building is pictured in West Houston January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Richard Carson/File Photo

Brent and U.S. crude turned negative after U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday criticized OPEC for output curbs that have helped raise global oil prices and said “artificially” high prices would not be accepted. U.S. and Brent crude were both down nearly 1 percent. [O/R]

Schlumberger, a bellwether for the oilfield services and drilling industries, said global oil supply and demand were in balance and that investments in exploration and production were expected to rise about 5 percent internationally.

The absence of normal seasonal softness indicated that supply and demand were in balance, and combined with “increased geopolitical risk” had driven up oil prices,” Chief Executive Paal Kibsgaard said on a call with analysts.

Oilfield service companies have benefited from a jump in U.S crude prices CLc1 to around $67 a barrel but providers such as Schlumberger and Halliburton (HAL.N) had signaled to investors that freezing weather in parts of the United States and frack sand delivery delays would be a negative on first-quarter results.

Overcapacity in the pressure pumping market also dampened earnings. Kibsgaard warned that the shale industry could face production challenges from drilling wells too close together, leading to lower output per well, and as producers move to less optimal areas.

Despite the headwinds, Schlumberger’s profit rose to $525 million, or 38 cents per share, in the quarter, from $279 million, or 20 cents, a year earlier.

Excluding items, it earned 38 cents per share, beating analysts’ estimate of 37 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Schlumberger’s results were “fairly in line after expectations had already been tempered,” Capital One Securities analysts wrote in a note on Friday.

Schlumberger expects to see growth in the North American pressure pumping market, but warned that its ability to raise prices would be constrained amid capacity additions.

The company anticipates add 1 million extra hydraulic horsepower this year, but deployed fewer frack fleets than anticipated in the quarter due to softer pricing and deployments by competitors.

Consultancy Rystad Energy estimates that some 3.3 million of hydraulic horsepower were added last year, and another 3.3 million will be added this year.

Schlumberger revenue from North America soared nearly 52 percent to $2.84 billion. However, the total cost of manufacturing products and delivering services rose nearly 12 percent to $6.80 billion.

Revenue from international operations, the company’s biggest segment, fell 0.8 percent to $4.88 billion.

Total revenue rose to $7.83 billion from $6.89 billion.

Revenue fell in Latin America on delays on a project in Ecuador and decreased activity in Argentina. Activity in Venezuela continued to decline.

Shares of Schlumberger fell 92 cents at $69.37.

Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru and Liz Hampton in Houston; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Sriraj Kalluvila and Jeffrey Benkoe

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