I suppose you could parse Schlumberger's (NYSE: SLB ) earnings release from now till the cows come home. But in the final analysis, this leader of the important oilfield services sector chalked up double-digit earnings and sees even better things ahead.
For the quarter, Schlumberger reported net income of $1.34 billion, or $1.09 a share. That's up nearly 14% from $1.18 billion, or $0.96 per share, in the first quarter of 2007. The latest quarter's results included three pennies from discontinued operations. Revenue was up 15% to $6.29 billion, from $5.46 billion in the first quarter of 2007.
The company's oilfield services unit increased its revenue by 18%, based on growth in a variety of producing horizons, including double-digit hikes in North Russia, Thailand/Vietnam, Continental Europe, and the Caspian area. WesternGeco, the seismic segment, saw its revenue dip 4% year over year as customers prepared for the Gulf of Mexico lease sale late in the quarter.
The per-share results actually fell short of analysts' expectations, but through midday Friday, Schlumberger's shares had risen more than 6% in active trading. One obvious propellant was a comment by Andrew Gould, the company's always interesting and insightful CEO. According to Gould:
In the absence of a severe global recession leading to a steep drop in demand, the thin cushion of excess oil supply and the failure to stem decline rates in many countries, coupled with the higher-than-expected drawdown of U.S. natural gas storage, are all factors that lead us to conclude that growth will strengthen as the year progresses.
Following a Wall Street Journal article earlier in the week focusing on production declines in Russia, several of the questions during the conference call following the release dealt with Schlumberger's prospects in that country. For his part, Gould thinks the Russian government will release the money required to sustain or increase production.
He's also concerned that "our government thinks they can tax $100 oil with impunity." And in India, he's seen "... a dramatic increase in the willingness ... to find out whether it has any chance of domestic energy security and therefore a huge investment in seismic."
So, when the parsing's done, it's clear the market loved what it heard from Schlumberger. In large part as a result, shares rose across the sector, including meaningful hikes for the likes of Halliburton (NYSE: HAL ) , Transocean (NYSE: RIG ) , Weatherford (NYSE: WFT ) , and BJ Services (NYSE: BJS ) .
But in the final analysis, Schlumberger remains the majordomo of oilfield services. As such, it deserves careful examination by Fools with an urge to build or add to positions in this vital sector.
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