BJ Services' Fizzled Quarter

While its larger competitor Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) uncorked a solid fourth quarter, BJ Services (NYSE: BJS  ) had less bubbly results to celebrate. Earnings came in lower than management expected for the oil services company's fiscal first quarter.

Despite the miss, BJ Services did well enough. Revenues totaled $1.2 billion, up 24% from $956 million year over year. Net income was $207 million, compared to $160 million in last year's Q1. Earnings per share came in 46% higher, at $0.70 per diluted share vs. $0.48.

But in its sequential comparisons, BJ Services fell flat. Revenues and net income fell 3% and 8%, respectively, from Q4 2006. Our Foolish analysis of last year's first-quarter results offered some simple logic to help understand the direction of BJ Services' earnings: "Higher energy prices mean more desire to produce, more desire to produce means more demand for pressure pumping, and less capacity expansion in pressure pumping means even higher prices." With prices falling over the past few months, we should have recognized that this quarter would lag expectations.

While drilling in the U.S. was steady, the biggest drag on the quarter's results came from the Canada Pressure Pumping Services segment. In step with our logic, management stated that "the decline in revenue was the result of decreased Canadian drilling activity brought on by lower natural gas prices." Funny how that worked out.

However, we still have to balance the company's short-term quarterly results with the long-term trend in prices. While it is easy see that BJ Services was hurt this quarter by a correction in energy prices, the long-term trend that Schlumberger's CEO Andrew Gould is so bullish about also holds true for BJ Services.

We should get a better sense of BJ Services' health after Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) and Weatherford (NYSE: WFT  ) release their earnings. Until then, I'll reserve judgment on the quality of its below-expectations quarter.

Drill deep to tap further Foolishness:

BJ Services has been rated three out of five stars in our Motley Fool CAPS investor-intelligence service. Check it out today, and give your opinion on BJ Services and other companies you follow.

Fool contributor Matthew Crews welcomes your feedback -- really! He has no financial position in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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