BUSINESS

Halliburton 3rd-qtr profit down 12 per cent on North American drilling slowdown, higher costs

10/17/2012 07:35 EDT | Updated 12/17/2012 05:12 EST
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Halliburton Co. said Wednesday its third-quarter net income fell 12 per cent as drilling activity declined and costs rose in its core North American business.

The Houston energy services company earned $602 million, or 65 cents per share, down from $683 million, or 74 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue rose 9 per cent to $7.11 billion. That was the smallest year-over-year revenue growth since the first quarter of 2010.

The results fell short of Wall Street expectations, according to a poll by FactSet.

Halliburton is a major provider of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," services that unlock oil and natural gas from underground shale deposits. That technology helped boost natural gas production in the U.S. by about 20 per cent between 2007 and 2011, according to data from the Energy Department. Halliburton's revenue rose more than 60 per cent in that same period.

But the boom in production has squashed prices. Natural gas prices were down 29 per cent in the latest quarter compared with a year ago as U.S. supplies remained high. As of Sept. 28, the nation's supply of natural gas stood at 3.6553 trillion cubic feet, up 8 per cent from a year earlier. Halliburton said the natural gas rig count on land in North America dropped by 18 per cent in the third quarter as companies slowed production.

Halliburton has a bigger chunk of its business in North America than its peers, so it's feeling a bigger pinch as customers pull back or turn their focus to drilling for oil. The number of on-land oil rigs rose 3 per cent in North America during the summer quarter as oil prices rose 9 per cent. But that wasn't sufficient to offset the decline in natural gas drilling.

Overall, revenue fell 5 per cent in North America. Dave Lesar, the company's chairman and chief executive, said Halliburton expects "the next couple of quarters to be pretty bumpy" in North America.

Costs rose due to higher prices for materials used in fracking, and disruptions in production caused by Hurricane Isaac.

The picture was brighter overseas. The company's international revenue rose 2 per cent despite a 2 per cent decrease in rigs, due to strength in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

Halliburton shares fell 51 cents to $34.05 in morning trading.