When Halliburton (NYSE: HAL ) CEO Dave Lesar announced in March that he'd be moving his headquarters from Houston to Dubai, I didn't expect an overnight transition. But that's essentially what's happened, with Lesar now spending his first week in his new United Arab Emirates digs.
In a very real sense, Halliburton's move represents an almost daily escalation in the energy business's shift away from its historic roots in the United States, toward places closer to today's operations. While it hasn't yet established an overseas headquarters, Halliburton's Houston-based oilfield services neighbor Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI ) has moved many of its efforts eastward, a nod to the relative importance of energy operations in the Middle East, Russia, the Caspian area, Africa, and India.
According to Lesar, who spoke with reporters from his new headquarters earlier this week, his company expects to generate as much as 75% of its new business over the next five years from the Eastern Hemisphere. That would represent a radical shift; today, about 65% of Halliburton's business and approximately 70% of its capital spending occur in the West. Lesar also noted that he would like to have "many young Arab and Asian engineers, technicians, and professionals to come and join our organization."
The company's load has lightened during the past year following the spinoff of its KBR (NYSE: KBR ) construction unit. KBR, whose margins have historically lagged those of Halliburton's oilfield services operation, has garnered a substantial portion of the U.S. government's construction and services work in Iraq. It's also come under intense scrutiny, likely because of its visibility and Vice President Dick Cheney's five-year stint as Halliburton's CEO during the 1990s.
What's the meaning here for Foolish investors attempting to grasp today's changing energy world? First, Halliburton is just a figurehead for the energy business's ongoing eastward drift. Second, while there are many attractive independent producers and smaller service companies, I'd urge Fools to consider the major integrated producers instead, along with such international oilfield service entities as Halliburton, Baker Hughes, and industry leader Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB ) .
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith owns shares in Halliburton and Schlumberger, but not in the other companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy can be light and sweet, but it's never crude.