Halliburton Is Picking Up Speed

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For Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) , the second-largest member of the oilfield services contingent, 2010 was hardly uneventful, given its role in the huge BP (NYSE: BP  ) and Transocean (NYSE: RIG  ) tragedy. Nevertheless, the company managed to bring home the bacon in its fourth quarter, more than doubling its results from a year ago.

For the most recent quarter, the company chalked up net income of $605 million, or $0.66 per share, compared with $243 million, or $0.27 a share in the fourth quarter of 2009. Beyond that, excluding a charge in the most recent quarter, the per-share number was $0.68, thereby beating the consensus expectation of $0.63 from the analysts who follow the company.

As such, the company followed industry leader Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) as the second member of its group to report, while also being the second to achieve higher-than-expected results. Revenues for the quarter were $5.2 billion versus $3.7 billion last year.

Halliburton's significant improvements were largely the result of further strengthening in North America, where a continued market improvement -- based upon higher activity levels in the unconventional natural gas and oil plays -- more than made up for the halt in activity in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The company's revenue and operating income both increased by 10% from the third quarter, despite just a 4% growth in the U.S. rig count.

But, as Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar also noted, "I am very pleased with our results on the international front. Key markets including Norway, West Africa, Iraq, and Algeria experienced increased activity." He further said that, despite a continuation of competitive pricing, the company profited from the "typical year-end impact of software and direct sales."

Regarding Halliburton's two operating segments, completion and production saw its operating income increase sequentially by 13%, based largely on results in North America and Africa. The drilling and evaluation segment expanded 31% sequentially -- or 10% excluding an impairment charge in the third quarter. While operating income for the segment was flat in North America, due to events in the Gulf of Mexico, activity in other areas of the world more than compensated for the situation in the Gulf.

As to this year -- and despite lingering question marks regarding Gulf activity -- Lesar said, "Looking into 2011, operators in North America continue to make the exploitation of unconventional resources the focus of their investment. Development of these resources requires expansive well programs resulting in longer-term contracting arrangements."

Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI  ) and Weatherford International (NYSE: WFT  ) both followed the two bigger services companies by reporting strong operating results on Tuesday. Nevertheless, Schlumberger and Halliburton clearly began by setting the table for attention to oilfield services, an industry that Fools simply shouldn't ignore.

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We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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