Schlumberger soars on global drilling boom, Baker hit at home


A three-decade high for drilling activity outside North America lifted Schlumberger Ltd to its seventh straight estimate-topping quarterly profit, while U.S.-focused Baker Hughes Inc came up short in a tough quarter at home.

Shares of global oil services sector leader Schlumberger rose 4 percent to $81.69 in trading before the New York Stock Exchange opened on Friday, while Baker Hughes slipped 2 percent to $48.

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UBS analyst Angie Sedita was impressed by Schlumberger's strong execution in almost every region. "Additionally positive data points for continued strength in the international and deepwater markets support strong growth in the years ahead," she wrote in an investor note.

Schlumberger said second-quarter net income rose 49 percent to $2.1 billion, or $1.57 per share, in the second quarter, from $1.4 billion, or $1.05 per share, a year earlier. Excluding certain items, its profit was $1.15 per share, whereas analysts had expected $1.10, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Schlumberger, which makes more than two-thirds of its revenue outside North America, is better insulated from the uncertain oilfield market in the home country of rivals Halliburton Co and Baker Hughes over the rest of 2013.

Exploration and drilling activity rebounded in China and Australia and growth continued in the key markets of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Schlumberger Chief Executive Paal Kibsgaard said.

U.S. natural gas prices have remained weak due to excess supply from shale fields. But both Schlumberger and Baker Hughes said strong drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico and improved deployment of U.S. hydraulic fracturing equipment drove revenue growth in North America.

And the near-term U.S. outlook is positive, with Barclays this week tallying a 4 percent rise in drilling permits in June in the 30 states it surveys, even though analysts sense drilling budgets could come under pressure before year-end.

Baker Hughes CEO Martin Craighead said he expected a strong rebound in North American operating margins in the third quarter as activity in Canada returns to normal.

In Canada, Baker's revenues and profits declined significantly as rig counts dropped to the lowest levels in four years in the annual spring slowdown as melting ice disrupts oilfield activity.

Baker reported a 45 percent fall in second-quarter profit on Friday, mainly due to weak margins in North America.

The U.S. gas-directed rig count fell to an 18-year low of 353 in June, while the rig count outside North America climbed to 1,333, the highest level in 30 years, according to data compiled by Baker Hughes.

Net income for Baker Hughes fell to $240 million, or 54 cents per share, for the quarter ended June 30. Excluding certain items, earnings were 61 cents per share, below analysts' expectation of 65 cents. Revenue rose 3 percent to $5.5 billion.

Shares of Schlumberger and Baker Hughes have risen about 10 percent in the past three months. Shares of Halliburton, which reports earnings on Monday, have risen 19 percent on news the company may settle its liability related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

(Reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco and Sayantani Ghosh and Thyagaraju Adinarayan in Bangalore; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)