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It typically isn't a subject of intense discussion, even among avid investors, but companies vary widely in the quality and amount of information they dispense during earnings seasons. For my money, few corporations are as informative regarding their circumstances and those of the industry they represent as oilfield services kingpin Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB ) .
Sure, Schlumberger provides the normal earnings, cash flow, and other financial metrics that are required of all companies. But it also fleshes out its press releases with enlightening examples of the projects in which each of its segments has been involved. (The company is not alone in providing informative press releases. Mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX ) , for instance, packs 40 pages of usable information into its quarterly releases.) In addition, however, Schlumberger's analyst calls have always seemed unusually helpful.
A solid quarter, the analysts notwithstanding
However, in the third quarter of this year, for instance, Schlumberger's income slid to $1.3 billion, or $0.96 per share, versus last year's $1.73 billion, or $1.34, for the comparable quarter of 2010. However, the third quarter of 2010 included a $0.98 per share one-time gain related to the acquisition of Smith International. Analysts had expected the most recent quarter to generate earnings of about $1.01 per share, or a nickel above the actual results. Revenues for the quarter were $10.2 billion, up 49% year-over-year.
Schlumberger is everywhere
Geographically, active locations Included Iraq (which obviously continues to ramp up following years of war-related dormancy), Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, and Angola. Exceptions were the Middle East and Asia, where decreased WesternGeco (seismic) activity reduced revenues.
The company's Oilfield Services group managed to increase its revenues 44% year-over-year. North America benefited the segment substantially, as did deepwater activity in Brazil, and coring work in Iraq. Projects in Brazil included the testing of reservoir samples for Anadarko (NYSE: APB ) . In addition, the company was able to participate in completing the first shale gas exploratory well in Poland.
The Reservoir Characterization group eked its revenues higher by 1% sequentially. The unit benefited from offshore exploration projects in Brazil, East Asia, Russia, and the North Sea, along with deepwater work in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. In the Neutral Zone separating Kuwait from Saudi Arabia -- where Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) is the only company operating upstream -- advanced real-time Wireline fluid sampling has been employed to recover the molasses-like heavy oil that characterizes the area. The group also completed the first commercial survey for Apache (NYSE: APA ) offshore Australia.
The Drilling group expanded its revenue by 79% year-over-year, providing its services in a wide array of locations, including Iraq, Ecuador, Oman, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, and others. Closer to home, Schlumberger techniques saved meaningful time for Murphy Oil (NYSE: MUR ) during drilling operations in the Eagle Ford prospect of South Texas.
Helping Chesapeake finish first again
Finally, the Reservoir Production group, which expanded its revenues by 47% year-on-year, combined combined with Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) on a Barnett Shale project wherein the United States' unconventional drilling leader became the first to apply Schlumberger's HiWay channel fracturing technique. The companies applied the new technique on one well in the three-well pad, thereby permitting comparisons with alternative techniques.
Foolish bottom line
But what lies ahead for Schlumberger and its peers clearly outstrips past achievements. Therefore, I'm inclined to lend particular credence to a comment by Paal Kibsgaard, the company's still-new CEO, during his post-release call:
"The current financial turmoil has already resulted in a lower outlook for oil demand growth in 2012, although demand growth is still expected to exceed that of 2011. However, recent production data, as well as forward projections indicate that there is a tight cushion of excess oil supply that will continue to support activity. Therefore, while the financial turmoil introduces some uncertainty over near-term activity, it has yet to have an impact on the actual activity of our customers. We remain confident that any potential reduction will be short-lived and that the outlook for the service industry remains positive."
Given that assessment, along with Schlumberger's 110,000 employees laboring in 80 countries for both public and national oil companies (NOC), and its technological superiority (which was enhanced by $919 million spent on R&D in 2010), it seems that the closer attention that Foolish investors pay to the company, the stronger will be their comprehension of the world's traditional energy circumstances. In my opinion, the optimum way to remain abreast of the company is to add its name to your version of My Watchlist.