Why You Simply Can't Ignore Halliburton

Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) started off this week by following two other big oil-field services companies -- Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB  ) and Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI  ) -- in reporting results for the second quarter of this year. But despite being hit harder than the others by changing North American market dynamics, the company nevertheless was given a vote of confidence on Monday by investors, who raised its share price by 2.4%.

For the quarter, the company's net income was essentially flat at $737 million, or $0.79 per share -- topping analysts' consensus forecast of $0.75 a share -- compared to $739 million, or $0.80, per share for the second quarter of 2011. Its revenue was up 22% to $7.2 billion, higher than the consensus $6.96 billion expectation.

The company's breakout
Halliburton operates through two segments: "Completion and production" essentially represents the back-end of the operators' preparation for production, while "drilling and evaluation" involves the earlier stages of seeking oil and gas. Operating income from completion and production was down 12% sequentially during the quarter. The geographic culprit in the decline was North America. Higher costs for a guar gum, a substance that's produced in India that's used in hardening your ice cream and in manufacturing drilling fluids, had an effect. Drilling and evaluation operating income was 7% higher sequentially, based on more robust demand for its services globally.

Without belaboring a point, the effect of guar on the quarter was interesting, to say the least. The product has been in short supply, with the predictable effect on prices. As such, when the opportunity to stock up on the substance presented itself, Halliburton happily responded, only to watch as prices subsequently plummeted. The company's admitted miscalculation likely will affect completion and production prices throughout this year. Guar prices can represent 30% of the overall cost of a fracking operation.

Three other factors affected Halliburton's North American results during the quarter. These involved the annual -- and inevitable -- spring breakup in Canada, pressure pumping pricing pressures (Peter picked a peck...), and the effects of the need to relocate equipment to accommodate the operators' precipitous switch from primarily gas drilling to a liquids-based emphasis. One countervailing force was the pick-up in U.S. Gulf of Mexico activity.

Global powerhouse
Nevertheless, while Halliburton generated the vast majority of its income in North America last year, just as with Schlumberger and Baker Hughes, the continent was hardly the entire story for the quarter. In fact, the company saw its profits generated in other venues increase by a whopping 83.7%. For instance, despite the effects of equipment mobilizations on margins in Brazil, Halliburton management is clearly enthusiastic about what lies ahead in the Latin American market.

Similarly -- and I hope you're seated, given the incessant drumbeat of news of Europe's likely disintegration -- the Europe/Africa/CIS recovered nicely from the first quarter. According to CEO Dave Lesar, Europe and Eurasia collectively are generating higher margins than the Eastern Hemisphere weighted average. And beyond that, hearkening back a year, the Middle East/Asia markets have contributed a 59% jump in operating income vis-a-vis the second quarter of 2011.

Reinforcing its direction
According to Lesar, Halliburton management continues to strive to "...continue to focus on maintaining our leadership position in North America, strengthen our international margins, and growing our market share in deepwater and underserved international markets."

And from a more macro-related picture, he said that:

We remain optimistic about the long-term global demand picture in commodity prices despite the various economic uncertainties that are weighing on the global hydrocarbon demand picture in the short run. Supply disruptions, including Iranian sanctions and lower-than-anticipated production levels in Iraq, Libya, and Brazil continue to pressure supply levels and the capacity in the global liquids market is still relatively tight.

As one who tends to lend considerable attention to the likely effects of geopolitical events on crude prices, I find Lesar's comments to be spot-on. As such, I'm looking forward to the opinions of the members of Big Oil, such as ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) , when they begin reporting later this week. Nevertheless, with Syria clearly spinning out of control, and with the country closely allied with both Iran and Russia, the steady escalation of deadly terrorism in Iraq -- itself a likely spillover from expanding chaos in both Iran and Syria -- has gone largely underreported.

The Foolish bottom line
On that basis, and given my long contention that Halliburton is an especially well-managed company, my inclination is to suggest strongly that those with a taste for energy -- a group that should include all Foolish investors -- monitor the Houston-based company closely, ideally by adding it to your own version of the Fool's My Watchlist.  

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

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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