Halliburton sees N.America margin growth on rise in drilling

Reuters

(Adds margin forecast)

July 21 (Reuters) - Halliburton Co, the world's No.2 oilfield services provider, said it expect higher margins in North America in the current quarter due to strong drilling activity, signaling an industry-wide recovery in the region after a two-year slump.

Halliburton's shares were up about 1 percent in premarket trading, after the company also raised its share repurchase program to $6 billion from $5 billion.

As drillers in North America shied away from natural gas basins due to weak prices for the fuel, Halliburton as well as its rivals Baker Hughes Inc and Schlumberger Ltd had been competing for a dwindling number of contracts.

However, a recent recovery in prices has led to a pick up in U.S. drilling activity, and that helped Schlumberger and Baker Hughes report better-than-expected quarterly profits last week.

Halliburton said on Monday that it expects North America margins to touch 20 percent in the third quarter.

Its margins in the region rose 2.8 percentage points to 18.2 percent in the second quarter ended June 30, and were higher than Baker Hughes' 12 percent and Schlumberger's 18 percent for the same period, according to analysts.

Halliburton, which has traditionally been dominant in North America, said it was speeding up additions to its hydraulic fracturing fleet and logistics capabilities in the region, with new crews available for service beginning later this year.

"We would expect Halliburton to continue to outpace industry growth with the telegraphed capacity increases," analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co wrote in a note.

The company's revenue from North America rose 11 percent in the second quarter from the first quarter, while operating income rose 31 percent sequentially.

That rise was stronger than a 9 percent sequential rise in revenue and 26 percent rise in operating income from the Eastern hemisphere, where the company has been making a strong push to combat the weakness in North America.

Revenue from Middle East and Asia rose 11 percent, while revenue from Europe, Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) increased 6 percent.

The weakest region was Latin America, where revenue increased just 4 percent and operating income fell 39 percent, hurt by reduced activity, a delayed order and costs for new projects in Mexico.

Margins in the region are expected to improve in the second half, with full-year margins in line with those a year earlier.

Net income attributable to Halliburton rose 20 percent to $774 million, or 91 cents per share, meeting Wall Street's expectations.

Revenue rose 10 percent to $8.05 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $7.88 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Halliburton also said it would move the role of president to Chief Operating Officer Jeff Miller from Chief Executive David Lesar, effective Aug. 1.

The company's shares were at $71.30 in premarket trading, up from their Friday close of $70.93.

(Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Maju Samuel and Savio D'Souza)

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