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The Oilfield Services Kingpin Merits Attention

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Schlumberger's (NYSE: SLB  ) quarterly reports and calls are as valuable for their broad energy overview as for the company's individual numbers.

Excluding charges and credits, net earnings grew to $875 million or $0.70 a share, from $787 million, or $0.65 a share a year ago. Revenue increased by 26% to $6.85 billion. The analysts, who had reached consensus expectations of $0.70 per share on revenues of $6.6 billion, were more perceptive on the company's per-share line than they had been with Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) and Weatherford (NYSE: WFT  ) , both of which beat forecasts.

Looking at the two operating units, Oilfield Services expanded its revenue by 12% year-on-year. Its smaller sibling, the WesternGeco seismic operation, improved its top line by 3% from a year ago. In August, Schlumberger completed an $11 billion acquisition of Smith International, which specializes in drilling technology, along with Smith's 60% portion of M-I SWACO, a completion fluids joint venture, of which Schlumberger owned the remaining 40%.

Schlumberger's CFO Simon Ayat noted on the call that the increased strength in "U.S. land margin improved significantly by almost 9 percentage points as a result of higher activity and better pricing. However, this strong performance was tempered by the effect of the deepwater drilling moratorium." 

Also, as CEO Andrew Gould said, "Outside North America, activity was mixed. Solid improvements were recorded in Asia, Russia, the North Sea, West and South Africa." Further, "Latin America performed in all GeoMarkets except Mexico, where budget constraints, weather, and security concerns led to major reductions [in activity]."

Looking ahead, Gould said that, “we expect the fourth quarter to show continued strong activity in North America on land, but we do not expect any rapid return to deepwater drilling in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico despite the lifting of the moratorium." However, a slower return to drilling could benefit WesternGeco, since, as he also said, "I think that some of our customers are going to spend a little bit of the money they didn't spend on drilling in improving their data portfolio."  

Schlumberger does a superb job in its releases in detailing new contracts and applications of technology for customers around the world. For instance the company has worked with an ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) unit in Russia completing Sakhalin-1 wells ahead of plan, breaking 15 Schlumberger records in the process. And in Turkmenistan, its work on reservoir studies benefited an Eni (NYSE: E  ) company in a number of ways.

So we are left with only Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI  ) to report in what has been a display of strength in oilfield service. I'm of the opinion that Fools should take another look at the strength of the group, and that Schlumberger is especially hard to top.  

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. The Fool owns shares of Exxon Mobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On October 27, 2010, at 9:30 AM, BHIGuy wrote:

    "Schlumberger is especially hard to top"

    But SLB is also topping. Look at the charts. It's WAY overbought and facing resistance at its 200 week moving average and upper 50 week Bollinger band. The oilfield services group commonly makes 15-20% cycles. Wait for the next down cycle and get a discounted price.

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