By John Benny and Liz Hampton
(Reuters) - Shares of oilfield services provider Weatherford International Plc rose on Friday despite an earnings miss, as Wall Street focused on free cash flow generation and improved earnings.
The Houston-based company, which has not reported a quarterly profit in four years, has struggled under the weight of a massive debt load since oil prices crashed in 2014.
On Friday, it said its adjusted loss narrowed to $140 million (107 million pounds) or 14 cents per share, from $329 million or 33 cents per share a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected a loss of 12 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Despite the loss, analysts said the results were neutral to positive, pointing to an EBITDA beat and free cash flow of $65 million. The company generated adjusted EBITDA of $210 million.
Chief Executive Officer Mark McCollum, who joined Weatherford from rival Halliburton in 2017, has been leading an effort to streamline business functions, cut costs and sell underperforming units to boost the company's balance sheet.
"Weatherford was able to continue to execute its transformation initiatives despite a volatile commodity price environment in the fourth quarter and post positive free cash flow," analysts for Evercore ISI wrote in a note on Friday following the earnings release.
Shares of Weatherford were up more than 10 percent at nearly 72 cents in early market trading.
The company ended the quarter with $7.6 billion in long-term debt on hand.
Weatherford recorded $2 billion in one-time expenses during the final quarter of 2018, largely driven by a $1.9 billion write-off in its goodwill balance.
The company said it anticipated a single digit revenue decline in the first quarter of 2019 versus the fourth quarter, driven in part by seasonality, the sale of its land rigs in the Middle East, and lower producer spending on weaker oil prices.
Revenue from Weatherford's Eastern Hemisphere markets fell 11 percent to $653 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 due to the sale of some of its land drilling rigs and lower revenue in the Middle East.
Revenue overall fell marginally to $1.4 billion from $1.5 billion.
(Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Frances Kerry)