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Halliburton 2Q profit off 8 pct; tops expectations

 

DAVID KOENIG,AP Business Writer


DALLAS (AP) — Halliburton Co.'s second-quarter profit fell 8 percent as revenue declined in North America, but international growth helped the oilfield operator slightly beat Wall Street expectations.

The company also announced an expansion of its share-repurchasing authority to $5 billion from $1.7 billion earlier this year.

The shares, which had gained 32 percent this year heading into Monday's session, fell 34 cents to $45.49 in morning trading.

Halliburton helps other companies produce oil and natural gas both offshore and on land. In the last several quarters, domestic oil drilling has hit levels not seen in more than two decades, but a glut of natural gas has hurt that side of the energy business.

Its stock has risen sharply this year on growth in international revenue and expectations of more drilling and better pricing and profit margins in North America.

Halliburton's growth has slowed sharply in the last four quarters, but it hopes that higher U.S. natural gas prices will help it boost revenue again.

The Houston company reported a setback in its effort to put the Gulf of Mexico oil spill behind it. Halliburton provided well-cementing services for the BP PLC drilling rig that exploded in April 2010, and $637 million set aside to cover lawsuits from the incident pushed Halliburton to a net loss in the first quarter.

Halliburton has been negotiating to settle those claims, but chief financial officer Mark McCollum said on a conference call with analysts that those talks have slowed while BP challenges part of its own settlement. On Friday, a federal judge in New Orleans declined a request by BP to temporarily shut down a multibillion-dollar program for compensating spill victims to investigate BP's allegations of fraudulent payments.

"We continue to believe that a reasonably valued settlement is in the best interests of our shareholders," McCollum said, "but given the complexity of the current situation among other parties, it is difficult to estimate when or if a resolution through settlement can be reached."

Halliburton didn't set aside any more money for spill-related claims in the second quarter, but McCollum said that could change. He added that insurance has begun to cover some legal bills.

For the quarter ended June 30, Halliburton's net income totaled $679 million, or 73 cents per share. Analysts expected 72 cents per share, according to FactSet. A year ago, earnings were $737 million, or 79 cents per share.

Overall revenue edged up 1 percent to $7.32 billion from $7.23 billion a year ago, also topping expectations despite an 8 percent revenue slide in North America. Total revenue, even with the decline in North America, was an all-time best for the second quarter, helped by international growth, especially in Asia.

"Clearly we are not just a North America pressure-pumping company," declared Chairman and CEO David Lesar.

Sterne Agee analyst Stephen Gengaro said that Halliburton has consistently increased international revenue "and we do not believe the market is yet fully appreciating its solid and growing international footprint."

Halliburton faces growing competition in a contentious part of its business: hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," which is the process of using chemicals and water under high pressure to crack open rock formations and release oil and natural gas. The technique has helped spur production in shale deposits but has come under fire from environmentalists, who charge that it threatens underground water supplies.

Halliburton moved to defuse some of that criticism last week by striking a deal with Nuverra Environmental Solutions Inc. to develop ways to increase the use of recycled wastewater.

And on Friday a landmark federal study showed no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process had contaminated drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site. Although the study is ongoing and the results are still preliminary, it was the first independent look at whether toxic chemicals used in fracking pose a threat to people during normal drilling operations.

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