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It may have been the result of the months-long drumbeat of negative news from the Gulf of Mexico, but my expectations for Halliburton (NYSE: HAL ) were far less impressive than the actual results reported by the second-largest of the oilfield services companies, behind Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB ) .
Halliburton was the first of the major oilfield services companies to report its latest quarter. It was a good one, with earnings up 83% to $480 million, or $0.53 a share, from $262 million, or $0.29 per share, for the same quarter a year ago. Revenue increased to $4.39 billion, versus $3.49 billion last year. Analysts had arrived at consensus expectations of $4.09 billion in revenues, leading to $0.37 in per-share results.
But perhaps even more important was the information CEO Dave Lesar and other company executives provided about the quarterly performance and the trends likely to affect future activity. The past quarter benefited significantly from higher activity in unconventional gas and oil basins in North America, along with a seasonal recovery in the Eastern hemisphere and improvement in Latin America and Brazil.
Both segments showed significant improvement on a quarterly and annual basis. Operating income from "completion and production" more than doubled from the first quarter, largely because of higher equipment utilization and pricing in the U.S. The "drilling and evaluation" unit increased its operating income by 18% sequentially, largely related to increased horizontal drilling in the U.S.
We can't forget that Halliburton was responsible for cementing BP's (NYSE: BP ) Macondo well just before Transocean's (NYSE: RIG ) Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico. As Lesar said, "The tragic incident ... and the subsequent suspension of deepwater drilling, we believe will usher in a new regulatory climate and have a profound impact on how future deepwater drilling is performed."
With a parade of rigs already leaving the Gulf, Lesar said, "I do not believe that the deepwater offshore rigs that were mobilized to international locations during this suspension will return to the gulf for some time, if at all." Among those rigs already moving are two Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO ) units, one bound for Egypt and the other for the Congo. The rig moving to Egypt had been working near BP's mess for Devon (NYSE: DVN ) , which handed a $31 million early termination fee to Diamond.
All this makes Halliburton even more compelling for this Fool. The big services companies enjoy a mobility that should provide them some protection against an energy world progressively running amok.