October 19, 2018 / 12:55 PM / 10 months ago

Schlumberger reports slight profit beat, warns of sluggish U.S. growth

(Reuters) - Schlumberger NV (SLB.N), the world’s largest oilfield services provider, reported a slight profit beat on Friday but cautioned that North American growth would slow due to transportation bottlenecks and hurt results next quarter.

The exterior of the Schlumberger Corporation headquarters building is pictured in the Galleria area of Houston January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Richard Carson

Although quarterly profits rose from a year ago, the company has been hit by slower-than-anticipated growth in the largest U.S. Permian Basin. Production has outpaced available pipeline takeaway capacity and driven prices lower, but Schlumberger expects the bottlenecks to be resolved in the next 12 to 18 months.

“The North America land market is changing pretty rapidly,” Chief Executive Officer Paal Kibsgaard said during a third-quarter earnings call.

The “rapid softening” in both hydraulic fracturing activity and pricing seen during the second half of the third quarter will continue at the same pace into the fourth quarter, he added.

Schlumberger, the first oilfield service provider to report earnings, is seen as a bellwether for the industry. The company warned investors last month that slowing activity in North America was affecting its business.

Shares of Schlumberger were up 2.3 percent at $59.76. The stock hit an 7-year low this week.

Schlumberger said “several key customers” were opting to stop using hydraulic fracturing fleets later this year and into January.

“This is presenting terms challenges in terms of white spaces in the calendar,” Kibsgaard said.

The company reported a profit of $644 million, or 46 cents per share, up about 18 percent from a year ago. Analysts anticipated earnings of 45 cents, excluding items, according to Refinitiv data.

Schlumberger also echoed concerns cited on previous investor calls that poor oil and gas reservoirs and well performance in North America could prompt production gains to fall short of expectations.

Analysts from investment firm Tudor Pickering Holt & Co said the results were within expectations but “unlikely to bring investors rushing off sidelines” and back into the sector.

International revenue rose 1.3 percent to $5.22 billion, while revenue from North America jumped about 23 percent to $3.20 billion.

“We may have seen the bottom in the international markets. The commentary seems more upbeat,” said Brian Youngberg, an Edward Jones analyst.

Total revenue rose to $8.5 billion from $7.91 billion a year ago. Analysts looked for $8.58 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr, Frances Kerry and Jeffrey Benkoe

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