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Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Jan 19, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to Halliburton's fourth-quarter 2020 earnings call. Please be advised at today's conference is being recorded. I would now like to hand the conference over to Abu Zeya, head of investor relations. Please go ahead, sir.

Abu Zeya -- Head of Investor Relations

Good morning and welcome to the Halliburton's fourth-quarter 2020 conference call. As a reminder, today's call is being webcast and a replay will be available on Halliburton's website for seven days. Joining me today are Jeff Miller, chairman, president, and CEO; and Lance Loeffler, CFO. Some of our comments today may include forward-looking statements reflecting Halliburton's views about future events.

These matters involve risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to materially differ from our forward-looking statements. These risks are discussed in Halliburton's Form 10-K for the year ended December 30, 2019, Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2020, recent current reports on Form 8-K, and other Securities and Exchange Commission filings. We undertake no obligation to revise or update publicly any forward-looking statements for any reason. Our comments today also include non-GAAP financial measures that exclude the impact of impairments and other charges.

Additional details and reconciliation to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures are included in our fourth-quarter earnings release and can also be found in the quarterly results and presentations section of our website. [Operator instructions] Now, I'll turn the call over to Jeff.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Abu, and good morning, everyone. Let me start by looking back at the year that just ended. 2020 was a year like no other. We faced a global pandemic, record-oil-demand destruction, and an unprecedented downturn in the energy industry.

Despite these turbulent times, Halliburton demonstrated resilience and performed consistently with our execution culture. Before we get to our results, I want to address our outstanding employees. I thank you for your hard work and execution throughout the entire year. You answered the call for safety, collaboration, and service quality, and delivered for Halliburton's customers and our shareholders.

Now, I want to highlight a few of our 2020 accomplishments. We delivered historic bests in all of our key safety and service quality metrics: recordable injury rate, lost time injury rate, vehicle incident rate, environmental recordable rate, and non-productive time. Each of these key metrics improved by over 20% and most did so for the second year in a row. This was a result of our employees' continued commitment to safety in process execution despite the year's distractions.

Total company revenue of $14.4 billion outperformed the global rig count decline of 38%, demonstrating the strength and diversity of our business. Our swift and decisive cost actions and service delivery improvements reset our earnings power, allowing us to deliver resilient margin performance. Our completion and production division finished the year with close to 16% operating margins, exiting the year higher than where they started. These results highlight the success of our structural cost reductions and process improvements.

Our drilling and evaluation division had a strong full-year margin performance despite the rig count declines experienced in all regions. We delivered over $1.1 billion of free cash flow for the year, demonstrating our ability to generate strong free cash flow throughout different business environments. We increased the breadth and depth of our digital offerings and delivered best-in-class performance across the spectrum of digital technologies. And we successfully launched Halliburton Labs, a collaborative environment where entrepreneurs, academics, investors, and industrial labs come together to advance cleaner, affordable energy.

Now, let me share a few points about our fourth-quarter performance. We finished the quarter with total company revenue of $3.2 billion and 9% sequential increase and adjusted operating income of $350 million, an increase of 27% sequentially. This marks the first quarterly revenue increase since the activity declines began last March. Our completion and production division revenue increased 15% sequentially while operating income improved 33% resulting in an operating margin improvement of 2% over the prior quarter.

Our drilling and evaluation division revenue and operating income grew 2% and 11%, respectively. Higher rig activity in the Western Hemisphere was offset by rig count declines in the Eastern Hemisphere. International revenue remained flat sequentially. Activity in Latin America improved for the second quarter in a row.

Activity declines continued in other regions but at a slower pace compared to the prior quarters. And lastly, our North America revenue increased 26% sequentially, driven primarily by increases in both drilling and completions activity in U.S. land. Our overall strong performance was a direct result of our focus on the key strategic priorities that define Halliburton's path now and into the future.

We are focused on profitable growth in our strong international franchise and we are driving strategic changes in North America, and building a leaner and more profitable business. We're accelerating the deployment and integration of digital technologies both internally and with our customers. We are driving capital efficiency by advancing our technologies and making strategic choices that lower our capex profile. And we are an active participant in advancing a sustainable energy future.

As we start the new year, we believe that the worst is behind us and look to the future with optimism. Oil prices are back to pre-pandemic levels driven by global vaccine distribution and unfolding demand recovery, OPEC-plus discipline, and a declining production base. However, some caution is appropriate due to the surge in COVID-19 infections globally and the expected gradual return of spare production capacity. Our five strategic priorities will continue to drive Halliburton's success as markets around the world stabilize and start to grow.

We believe that aligning our actions with these priorities will boost our returns and free cash flow generation both today and as the recovery unfolds. We set these priorities according to our long-term view of the market. As oil demand recovers, we expect to see favorable market dynamics and the beginning of a multi-year energy upcycle. However, we believe this recovery will look different than prior cycles.

International short-cycle producers will have an opportunity to gain share. North American E&Ps will increase spending from current levels that will take a more disciplined approach to growing production in the future. We believe that the overall cost and environmental impact of producing oil and gas will continue to decline due to innovation and technology adoption. As a result, oil and gas will remain a critical and significant component of the energy mix.

I expect that our gains achieved in 2020, including service delivery improvements, structural cost reductions, and capital efficiency are firmly in place and sustainable. Halliburton is uniquely positioned in all markets and is prepared to deliver on both our customer expectations and our shareholder objectives. Our strong international business outperformed the market. Our full-year international revenue declined 17%, while rig counts and customer spending were down more than 20%.

All regions except Latin America declined in the fourth quarter but at a slower pace. In the first quarter, we expect international activity to be impacted by typical weather-related seasonality and the absence of year-end product sales. Activity should bottom during the first quarter and improve as the year unfolds. For the full year, we expect activity recover to vary widely across regions.

Latin America will continue its upward momentum off a very low bottom both onshore and offshore. Asia-Pacific is also showing signs of activity improvement. We believe parts of Europe and West Africa will remain slow, especially in the deep-water areas. As for the Middle East and Russia, we believe they will manage activity based on expectations of the economic and demand recovery.

While the pace of recovery depends on the trajectory of demand improvement, we believe the second half of this year could see a low double-digit increase in international activity year on year. Halliburton is well-positioned to benefit from this increase. Let me be clear, our target is profitable growth. Against a tough activity backdrop in 2020, we remain focused on increasing profitability and our actions resulted in overall international margin improvement.

In 2021, we expect that several factors will continue to drive Halliburton's profitable international growth. Halliburton will benefit from our improved position in the international markets this cycle. We're stronger technically, geographically, and organizationally. We have exposure to mature fields completions and interventions work, a deck of resilient, integrated contracts around the world, leveraged unconventional developments in Latin America and the Middle East, and a leading position in key active offshore areas.

While the international sales cycle tends to be longer, we now have line of sight to activity increases in the coming quarters. Tender activity has picked up recently, led by the NOCs in the Middle East and Latin America, and new opportunities are emerging with operators in other regions. Our customers have also pulled forward mobilization plans for various contracts awarded to Halliburton that were put on hold due to the pandemic. Our new drilling technologies are penetrating the market and gaining customer confidence.

For example, we exited the year with a three-fold increase in our EarthStar deep resistivity sensor revenue. As activity recovers, our technology provides us with a tremendous opportunity to profitably grow revenue. We see significant growth potential in the continued international expansion of our production businesses, especially in mature fields around the world. For example, the international Artificial Lift Market tends to be more resilient and has longer cycle.

Once an operator puts its field on a specific form of lift, it typically stays on it for many years. We are currently mobilizing for our first multi-year electric submersible pump contract in the Middle East and are excited about the opportunities Artificial Lift opens for us in the region. The construction of our specialty chemicals plant in Saudi Arabia continues to progress toward final completion. When it is complete, Halliburton will have a differentiated value chain in the region that maximizes local content, delivers customized solutions more quickly, and shortens customer lead times.

I'm excited about these two new additions to our international portfolio that provide us with unique growth opportunities. Finally, adoption of Halliburton's digital solutions helps our customers to reduce cost per barrel, improve project economics, and increase efficiencies. Our Halliburton 4.0 digital offerings in subsurface, well construction, and reservoir and production create differentiation and margin growth opportunities for Halliburton. We are pleased that in 2021, several international oil companies are deploying decisions-based 365 cloud applications to streamline and automate their well construction activities I believe that digital and other technology advances, geographic expansion of our products and services, along with continued discipline in cost management and capital efficiency should allow Halliburton to continue delivering profitable returns-driven growth in the international markets.

Turning to North America. The strategic actions we took last year reset Halliburton's earnings power in this critical but structurally smaller market. We are the leader in North America and the only integrated oilfield services company still active in the hydraulic fracturing market. In the fourth quarter, our North America business took advantage of the recovery in completions and drilling activity, and delivered continued margin improvement even without improved pricing.

Completion stage counts increased in the oil basins but declined modestly in the gas place. While the U.S. land rig count recovered from its August 2020 low of 230 rigs, it is still 60% below the pre-pandemic levels. Private and small operators added the most rigs, while large E&Ps and majors moved more slowly.

We expect completions activity in North America to continue improving in the first half of 2021 as commodity prices remain supportive and customers complete their backlog of DUCs. Customer consolidation will likely continue and we expect most operators will remain committed to a disciplined capital program. For the full year, provided that the impact of the pandemic moderates, economic activity continues to increase, and oil price remains solid, I am optimistic that our customers will sustain activity in order to hold their production plant to 2020 exit levels with completion spend outpacing drilling. I'm excited about Halliburton's future in North America and here's why.

We completed the most aggressive set of structural cost reductions in our history, giving us meaningful operating leverage in a recovering market. We also made significant changes to our processes that drive higher contribution margin. For example, how we perform equipment maintenance and provide engineering support. We believe the benefits of these changes will have a meaningful impact on our margins as activity picks up.

The hydraulic fracturing market structure continues to improve. Utilization of our active equipment is higher than it was at the beginning of last year. The market has continued to rationalize and consolidate. We are seeing competitors either cannibalize idle equipment for parts or use it to beef up working fleets, thus increasing average horsepower per fleet.

This will make equipment reactivation to meet growing demand a lot harder for capital-constrained companies and should only accelerate supply and demand balancing. Because activity starts to increase, Halliburton has a unique competitive advantage and sufficient capacity to respond without adding incremental capital. Our in-house engineering capabilities to refurbish, maintain, and continuously improve our fracturing and perforating equipment minimize the cost and time to deliver the necessary equipment to our customers and take advantage of the market recovery. We are also well-positioned to profitably grow in our competitive non-hydraulic fracturing businesses in North America.

For example, in 2020, our artificial lift business developed and implemented new digital capabilities, increased remote operations jobs, and solidified its strong market position in North America. We also expect our well construction technology investments to best position Halliburton to outperform as drilling rigs return. Using the Halliburton 4.0 digital framework, we continue to collaborate and engineer solutions that maximize our customers' asset value. Last quarter, we launched our SmartFleet intelligent fracturing system and successfully completed a customer engagement in West Texas.

SmartFleet is an industry first for intelligent automation, manages and executes live treatment decisions to optimize sub-surface fracture outcomes. By using SmartFleet, the operator was able to consistently visualize and measure fracture propagation, and control fracture placement through automation. Importantly, the system provided a level of sub-surface control that was previously not possible and enabled the customer to actively drive their completion outcomes in real-time. We are building on this success with multiple customer commitments across different basins.

I believe this is the biggest step forward in fracturing technology in a long time. Let me give you a few more examples of how we are accelerating Halliburton 4.0 digital adoption. In the North Sea, we successfully delivered the first fully automated cement job where the off-shore cementing unit executed the work without human intervention. This is an important milestone in reaching the vision of fully autonomous off-shore well construction that has significant implications for efficiency, safety, and operating costs.

In 2020, we more than tripled the number of DecisionSpace 365 users on iEnergy Cloud platform. Our customers also increased adoption of the DecisionSpace 365 assets simulator. Operators in Europe, Latin America, and Asia ran over 3,000 reservoir simulation scenarios on the iEnergy Cloud with speeds of up to seven times faster than with conventional on-premise simulators. Finally, we are teaming up with Accenture to drive the digital transformation of our supply chain.

This will result in process efficiencies across large volumes of transactional activities, lower our overall cost, and free up resources to drive strategic decision making in support of our operational requirements. Next, I want to discuss capital efficiency, a key enabler of our other strategic priorities, leveraging new materials and design approaches, as well as digital innovation. We've been able to significantly reduce capex requirements and extend the life of our equipment. We're continuing our iCruise drilling system deployment and are reaping the benefits of a reduced capex profile and higher asset velocity.

Technology advancements and multiple product service lines in both divisions are allowing us to improve design and service configuration to save time and money both for our customers and Halliburton. Finally, I would like to highlight several important actions we took in alignment with our strategic priority to participate in advancing a sustainable energy future. We are working to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact of our own operations and have committed to setting targets through the Science Based Targets initiative to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. With this commitment, Halliburton joins over 1,000 global companies taking science-based climate action.

This is important in our journey to align with the latest climate science and contribute to sustainable energy advancement. We are also collaborating with our customers to produce oil and gas more efficiently while reducing their emissions. We are currently performing the first electric-grid-powered fracturing operation for Cimarex Energy in the Permian Basin. With over 300 stages on multiple wells already completed, Halliburton's electric-powered equipment has allowed the customer to achieve pump rates that were 30% to 40% higher than conventional pumps by utilizing the maximum grid power potential.

Grid-powered electric spreads required substantially less capital, a smaller footprint, and are more efficient compared to turbine power. When demand for emission reduction solutions translates to better pricing, I expect we will replace within our planned capital budget some of our conventional fracturing capacity with electric over the course of a normal equipment replacement cycle. Halliburton is starting the new year with a clear sense of purpose. We believe that our strategic priorities are the right ones and our margins in the fourth quarter demonstrated that.

We are confident that the actions we have taken are sustainable and we are well-positioned both internationally and in North America for the unfolding market recovery. I'll now turn the call over to Lance to provide more details on our financial results. Lance?

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Jeff. Let's, begin this morning with an overview of our fourth-quarter results compared to the third quarter of 2020. Total company revenue for the quarter was $3.2 billion, an increase of 9%, and adjusted operating income was $350 million, an increase of 27%. During the fourth quarter, we recognized approximately $450 million of pre-tax impairments and other charges, primarily related to the fair value adjustment of our real estate assets in North America.

As part of our 2020 structural cost reduction initiative, we reduced the amount of real estate required to run our business. In the second quarter, we decreased our real estate use in North America by roughly 50% by closing, selling, consolidating, and reducing the size of many facilities. Subsequently, we conducted a detailed analysis on how we own, lease, and operate our remaining real estate footprint. As a result, we concluded that a structured transaction is likely to be advantageous in managing the majority of our North American real estate, which led to the fair value adjustment I just discussed.

This initiative is consistent with our strategic priority to achieve capital efficiency in our business, while allowing us to retain flexibility and drive future operating benefits. Let me take a moment to discuss our divisional results in more detail. In our completion and production division, revenue increased $236 six million or 15%, while operating income increased $70 million, an increase of 33%. These increases were driven by higher activity in multiple product service lines in North America, increased stimulation activity in Argentina and Kuwait, higher completion tool sales in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Norway, and increased well intervention services internationally.

These increases were partially offset by lower pressure pumping activity in Saudi Arabia and lower completion tool sales in Eurasia and Australia. Our drilling and evaluation revenue increased $26 million or 2% while operating income grew by $12 million or an 11% increase. These increases were primarily due to higher drilling-related services in North America and Brazil, increased wireline activity in North America and Latin America, as well as higher fluids sales in Asia-Pacific and Guyana, and increased software sales across all regions. Partially offsetting these increases were lower drilling-related services and project management activity in Europe-Africa CIS, the Middle East, and Mexico, as well as reduced wireline activity in Asia Pacific and Saudi Arabia.

Moving on to our geographical results. In North America, revenue increased $254 million, a 26% increase. These results were driven by higher activity in stimulation and artificial lift in U.S. land as well as higher well construction, and wireline services activity, and year-end completion tools and software sales.

Latin America revenue grew $46 million or 12%, resulting primarily from increased pressure pumping and wireline activity in Argentina, and activity increases in multiple product service lines in Colombia and Ecuador, as well as higher fluid sales in Guyana, and drilling services in Brazil. These increases were partially offset by reduced activity across multiple product service lines in Mexico. Turning to Europe-Africa Cis. Revenue was modestly down by $7million or a decrease of 1%, resulting primarily from reduced drilling-related services and completion tool sales in Eurasia, coupled with lower drilling-related activity in Norway.

These results were partially offset by higher completion tool sales in Africa, Norway, and continental Europe, as well as increased stimulation and well intervention services in Algeria and continental Europe. Middle East Asia revenue declined $31 million or 3%, largely attributed to lower activity in multiple product service lines in Saudi Arabia, reduced drilling activity in United Arab Emirates, and decreased project management activity in India. These decreases were partially offset by higher drilling-related services in China, Australia, and Malaysia, increased stimulation activity in Kuwait, and higher software sales across the region. In the fourth quarter, our corporate and other expense totaled $49 million and we expect it to be approximately the same in the first quarter of 2021.

Net interest expense for the quarter was $125 million and should remain essentially flat in the first quarter. Our effective tax rate for the fourth quarter was approximately 19%. Based on the market environment and our expected geographic earnings mix, we expect our 2021 first-quarter effective tax rate to be approximately 25%. We generated approximately $638 million of cash from operations during the fourth quarter and delivered over $1.1 billion of free cash flow for the full year.

As a result, we ended the year with approximately $2.6 billion in cash. We will continue to prioritize reducing leverage in the near term and intend to pay down $685 million of debt coming due this year with cash on hand. Capital expenditures during the quarter were $218 million with our 2020 full-year capex totaling approximately $730 million. In 2021, we intend to keep our capital expenditures relatively flat at $750 million.

We believe that with this level of spend, we will be well-equipped to take advantage of the unfolding recovery. Finally, let me provide you with some comments on how we see the first quarter playing out. As is typical, our results for the first quarter of 2021 will be subject to weather-related seasonality and the roll-off of year-end product sales which primarily impact our international and Gulf of Mexico businesses. While we anticipate a slower-than-normal start to the year in some international regions, we also expect activity momentum in North America to continue with completions activity outpacing drilling activity.

As such, in our completion and production division, we expect revenue to increase 3% to 5% sequentially and operating margins to decline 150 to 200 basis points, largely due to a different business mix. In our drilling and evaluation division, we anticipate a low-single-digit revenue increase sequentially with operating margins expected to increase by 50 to 75 basis points I'll now turn the call back over to Jeff. Jeff?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Lance. To sum up, Halliburton is focused on executing our key strategic priorities to deliver industry-leading returns and solid free cash flow for our shareholders. Our strong international business is expected to continue its profitable growth and market outperformance as the international activity ramps up throughout the year. In the critical North American market, our business is recovering and demonstrating margin improvement.

Digital is gaining traction, growing our revenue, and helping us and our customers increase operational efficiency and reduce costs. Our capital efficiency, enabled by technology and service delivery improvements, is expected to contribute to solid free cash flow generation. And our commitment to a sustainable energy future will ensure we play a role in advancing cleaner and more affordable energy solutions. I am optimistic about the future.

While the 2020 downturn was deeper and more widespread than anything we've seen before, I'm encouraged by the changes we implemented to solidify Halliburton's role in the unfolding economic recovery for oil and gas remains vital. Strong execution on our strategic priorities will allow Halliburton to continue to power into and win this recovery. And now, let's open it up for questions.

Questions & Answers:


Operator

[Operator instructions] Our first question comes from the line of James West with Evercore ISI. Your line is now open.

James West -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, Jeff, Lance, Abu.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, James.

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

James West -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

And well done in North America in -- in reinventing yourself there and creating a much more valuable asset. And while it's a structurally lower market or smaller market, you've created a -- a nice cash flow machine there. The -- the -- the question in my mind -- and -- and you gave some color around this, Jeff, but I wanted to dig a little further is at -- the outlook for kind of full-year '21, you know, with North America. I know you mentioned, you know, you -- you feel like the momentum is still so good.

But I guess, first, is there some peak that we're going to see or some stabilization of activity as -- as the companies remain, you know, capital-disciplined that should get back to kind of this maintenance level? And then on the international side, it sounds like, you know, but you've have called a bottom 1Q, you get some pickup in -- in -- in 2Q, but the magnitude of the pickup in the second half. You know, what's your confidence level on that pickup?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, James. Let me start with North America and -- and then start with a -- I am more optimistic today than I certainly was 90 days ago. And I --

James West -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Right.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

2020 -- and 2021 will feel better than the second half of 2020 annualized. That -- so, what's important is we see momentum coming into the year and -- and it looks steady for the remainder. And, you know, at a -- and that's predicated on customers. I think we'll be.

Certainly right -- certainly rational in capital discipline, but I think there's also pressure to hold production flat in 2021 which creates a bit of floor as we look at the full year.

James West -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

OK.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

From an international perspective, you know, I -- I feel confident around the international recovery. And I think in terms of magnitude, you know, the second half of 2021, you know, we will -- we believe or I believe we'll be up, you know, low-double digits. So, that's fairly solid and that's based on the tender pipeline that we're seeing and, you know, the types of barrels that are produced. Shorter cycle, I think, will lend themselves to that type of uptick.

And -- and maybe one last word on international outlook. I mean, I think the, you know, we view 2021 as a bit of a transition year. I mean, 2020 was the worst in our history and we view 2022 as when we see the global rebalancing of supply and demand which creates the sort of underpinning of a multi-year upcycle. And so, that we see Q1 as a bottom and then steadily building from there.

That's the kind of momentum that we really like to see going into that supply and demand sort of coming into balance.

James West -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

OK. OK. And then the -- the tendering process internationally that -- that's occurring, are these chunky projects, the big ones, or is it more smaller or is it kind of ramping of -- of projects and -- that have maybe ramped down there's ramping back up. What's -- what's the kind of the nature of that -- that -- of those tenders?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

We're seeing some tenders, some big ones, also seeing some extensions of existing work. So, it's a bit of a mixed bag at this point. But the visibility we have are of, you know, not all chunky. So, again, I think the extensions are important also to create sort of that steady momentum that we're talking about.

James West -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Right. OK. Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, James.

Operator

Our next question comes from Angie Sedita with Goldman Sachs. Your line now is open.

Angie Sedita -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, guys.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Angie.

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Angie.

Angie Sedita -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Good morning. So, Lance, maybe we could start with you and flush out a little more commentary around the margin outlook for '21 for both C&P and D&E. And maybe could start with the 150- to 200-basis-point decline on mix for Q1. And flush that out for us and just talk thoughts about the full year.

And then D&E, 8.2% in Q4, you set up slightly in Q1. And can you talk about the margin outlook for the full year and the potential to return to a double-digit margin?

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Sure, Angie. Look, I think it's simply -- as -- as -- as it relates to the guide that we gave, it's simply a -- a business mix for C&P. So, we've got completion tool sales that are falling off and are being replaced.

That -- that revenue is being replaced by an improving North America market activity but not at the same level of profitability. But look, we're encouraged about some of the backlog that we see building in our completion tool business and I think that also gives us the confidence, you know, that -- that Jeff just outlined in terms of the back half of the year, particularly in the international markets. As you think about C&P margin progression in -- in 2021, I mean, I -- I'd -- I'd remind you and others on the call that we're starting from a much higher point in 2021 than we did even in 2020 before the impact of the pandemic. And that's on a much lower activity level.

On a full-year basis, I would say, Angie, that our expectations is that we still drive mid-teens margins for our C&P division. And look, if we are able to get some pricing momentum, it could go higher than that. But we're happy with what we've done particularly creating the operating leverage in the business. Jeff has mentioned several times that it's sustainable and I think it fundamentally drives higher incrementals.

At least, that's what the management team here is focused on for this next upcycle. On D&E margins, again, I think we are starting 2021 higher sequentially which is typically not the case for our business as we go through some of the seasonality issues that we've mentioned and year-end software sales falling off. So, I'm encouraged to see the momentum and margin progression across the end of the year and into the -- into the beginning of 2021. And that's coming off, again, a largest rig drop in history for our business and our industry.

Our expectations is to get to double-digit margins by the end of the year into the year of 2021. And I think that we're ready to do that through capitalizing on obviously, a recovering market that Jeff talked about in the back half of the year, but also on the technology and digital investments that we've made into the business throughout the course of 2020 and reaping the benefits in 2021. But I think the overall point, particularly for our D&E business as you think about the international markets is a real focus on profitable growth.

Angie Sedita -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Yeah. Fair color. That's great color, Lance. Very much appreciated.

So, maybe one more separate follow-up on each leads. Maybe Jeff you could talk about the technology that you have, how it differs from the peers, the contract you have with Cimarex, and then thoughts around additional construction, and could electric fleets become a larger part of the operations over time.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Oh, thanks, Angie. Look, I think that was a -- it's an elegant and differentiated solution, but clearly, a premium solution that we've been working on the electric technology for a number of years and have always described some of the challenges around electric also being the cost and the upfront capital associated with it. You know, the grid solution actually eliminates the requirement for turbines which have come with, you know, a range of, you know, either operating problems or emissions. And so -- and it's important to give a shout out to the Cimarex management team here because a lot of innovation and collaboration together in order to bring together a very efficient solution.

And also, one with the absolute lowest emissions. I mean, because now it's tapped into the grid and consuming sort of a variety of different energy sources. So, the customer commitment was very important. I think customer interest will be high but it's also over -- over time, it's also going to require pricing and -- and different types of contract terms.

And I view this though as part of our normal reinvestment cycle. Clearly, there's interest but we have a planned reinvestment cycle that's inside of our capital budget and our outlook on capital efficiency. And certainly, see electric having a place in that but that's where it will set.

Angie Sedita -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Great. Great. Thanks, I'll turn it over.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Scott Gruber with Citigroup. Your line is now open.

Scott Gruber -- Citi -- Analyst

Yes. Good morning.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Scott.

Scott Gruber -- Citi -- Analyst

So, Jeff, just staying on the -- that same line of -- of questioning. You know, the demand for emission reduction solutions in -- in frac appears pretty robust these days. With crude climbing above $50, do you think customers are -- are going be willing to pay up this year to begin a more material expansion of -- of these solutions?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

We'll -- we'll -- we'll have to see. Like I said, we -- we've seen -- haven't seen it necessarily at this point, but I think that it's part of an evolution. By that, I mean emissions are part of the cost of operating today. And in my prepared remarks, I indicated that I thought technology would lower operating costs and also emissions.

And I think viewing it that way is going to be important. And it, you know, beyond that, you know, from a Halliburton perspective, we think about nutrition labels, in effect, which help us work with our customers to lower, you know, the emissions not just for us but in the services that we provide so that we can make choice and drive R&D toward what we think will be a lower emissions, you know, sort of footprint allocation.

Scott Gruber -- Citi -- Analyst

Got you. And then Lance, just coming back to see C&P margins. You know, a big question on -- on Halliburton these days is just how C&P margins trend here, you know, given the recovery domestically but that coming in a -- at a lower margin profile than -- than international. Are you able to provide, you know, just a bit more color on -- on the incrementals that you're seeing on the domestic side of -- of C&P? You know, not asking for the -- the absolute level but just in terms of the rate of change as activity comes back here, are you -- are you seeing incremental, say in 4Q that approach the -- the segment average in, you know, those types of incrementals sustainable into the first half of '21?

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, look. I think, you know, look, incrementals will start off naturally slower when you're just working on activity ramp. Clearly, there -- there's a lot more punch to incrementals when you start to get pricing as well. We're not there yet as you've heard us say on the pricing side.

But I think our incrementals have been very healthy as it relates to just the activity improvement in North America. And again, it goes back to the things that we were doing around the structural cost initiatives to -- to get the cost structure right in this market and to watch that business improve on activity alone has been -- has been good to see.

Scott Gruber -- Citi -- Analyst

Got you. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Yup.

Operator

Our next question comes from Sean Meakim with J.P. Morgan. Your line is now open.

Sean Meakim -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Thanks. Hey, good morning.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Sean.

Sean Meakim -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

So, you hit your billion-dollar free cash flow bogey for 2020. I'm just curious how you think 2021 to unfold. You got the moving parts of improving cash from operations as you go through the year, but also working capital needs shift as revenue is going to improve sequentially. Capex, you're expecting flat year on year.

Just how do we think about setting that mark for '21 in terms of what you all can achieve from a free-cash-flow perspective?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Sean, let me -- let me take the first part of that because it's in -- maximizing free cash flow is a priority of mine. And the strategic priorities that I've laid out are designed to deliver and maximize free cash flow. But as you say, I think the profile may look different this year. Lance, why don't you go --

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Sure. You're right -- you're right, Sean. Yeah, I think the -- the free-cash-flow profile for 2021 versus 2020 will be much more from an operating-profit perspective, right? So, the full year of cost-cut benefits will be rolling through 2021.

We'll also have the increased activity that you've heard us reference so far on the call. Yes, you're right, capital discipline and our philosophy around that remains in place. But as the business begins to grow, working capital will require investment, right, as activity picks up. And so, think about it outside of some of the noise that's created from working capital movements.

So, excluding working capital for a second, I would expect free cash flow to more than double in 2021. That -- that helpful?

Sean Meakim -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Very helpful. Yeah. Thank you for that. And then on international markets, you know, you talked about shorter cycle may be taking back some share and that makes sense.

And you noticed that tendering activity picking up. Could you just talk about expectations for bidding behavior between you and your competitors? How that may compare -- contrast what we saw in the most recent cycle? You know, what -- what should give investors confidence that tendering rounds may look different than what they did in the most recent -- most recent round we saw, let's say, prior to the pandemic?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Look, Sean. I -- I -- I'm not going to comment on, you know, the strategic and the competitive issues that you brought up. But what I can speak from our perspective is our focus is on profitable growth and profitable growth that maximizes free cash flow and drives returns.

And I would say that that's been, you know, something that is important and we were making progress on that in the first quarter of 2020, you know, in terms of improving margins and cash flow and returns. And then we took a COVID pause internationally. Now, I don't think, you know, dyna -- dynamics have not changed in terms of available equipment for the international markets, you know, during the COVID period of time. So, you know, with activity and our focus on profitable growth, you know, I'm encouraged by what I see.

Clearly, you know, it's always competitive. Certainly, it's always competitive. But, you know, that focus on profitable growth is front and center with me.

Sean Meakim -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Understood. Thanks very much for that.

Operator

Our next question comes from Chase Mulvehill with Bank of America. Your line is now open.

Chase Mulvehill -- Bank of America Securities -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, everyone. I guess, I -- I wanted to -- to come back to the conversation around kind of, you know, E&P spending and then kind of your outlook for 2021. I don't know if you can maybe just take a minute and -- and talk to, you know, what your expectations are for North America E&P spending this year and then also on the international side. I know you said kind of activity up low -- low-double digits in the back half of this year for international, but I don't know if that means that we can actually, you know, kind of get more flattish spending this year by E&P, or is that still going to be down?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Well, look, from an international standpoint, I mean, I think it's a fairly tight range around -- around flat. But I also think what's more important is the improvement that we're seeing into what we believe is, you know, supply and demand balancing in 2022. And that's the right kind of trajectory to have going into that. And so, if we've got double-digit growth in the-the second half of the year, we've called a bottom in the first quarter of the year, and you just kind of work through that.

And, you know, like I said, I believe it's a tighter range around flat. But I think that's going to be, you know, it's going to be the path to solid improvement and I'm pretty optimistic about how all of that plays out. In North America, again, I think Q1 last year creates a lot of noise in that comparison, but the -- but the important thing is I do believe customers will be capital-disciplined but we've got a lot of growth to go just to get back to where we were, you know, even pre-pandemic when -- the first quarter of '20. And so, I think that -- and we saw production come off pretty hard in 2020.

So, just to keep things flat in 2021 from a production perspective requires, you know, a -- a -- a reasonable amount of activity. And actually, more activity than we even see today based on kind of our calculation and outlook, which gives me good confidence that, you know, while we've got good momentum in the first quarter and -- you know, and we've got, you know, pretty good visibility for the year. So, I think that, you know, our outlook that -- that momentum it-- it builds in the first quarter but it doesn't fall off at the pace that it has in the past, certainly. And I think that's just because the drivers will be different.

And I think capital discipline and flat production coexist in the market and that's what gives me confidence.

Chase Mulvehill -- Bank of America Securities -- Analyst

OK. And one quick follow-up. If we think about international pricing, you know, we've heard some -- some anecdotes from some people, you know, about some competitive pricing or some larger projects out there. You know, but -- but we don't -- we don't see all the data points.

So, I don't know if you can maybe just take a second and -- and just kind of talk about what you're seeing out there on the international pricing side.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Well, what I'd say is it's -- it's always competitive on big projects. We'll see, you know, different behavior at different times. Yeah, I think the under -- the most important thing is I think we're going into a multi-year cycle internationally and -- and building profitable growth is what will be most important and certainly most important to Halliburton. And I say it that way because, you know, the equipment availability hasn't changed.

Certainly, we view capital efficiency as one of our strategic priorities which also means we want to put it to work where -- in the places where it's going to make the best returns. And that's not going to be everywhere, that's going to be in the best-returning opportunities. But I think there's enough growth there. And again, it's this multi-year cycle, it's -- it's the balancing in '22 and the progression through '21 that gives me confidence in certainly taking that approach.

Chase Mulvehill -- Bank of America Securities -- Analyst

OK. Perfect. I'll turn it back over. Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Kurt Hallead with RBC Capital Markets. Your line is now open.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, everybody.

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Kurt.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Kurt.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hey, thanks for that -- thanks for that great detail. I really appreciate it and always good to start the year on a positive tone and positive note, especially after what we've been through, right, over the last -- last year. So, it's good -- good to hear. Hey, it's just -- I wanted to follow up with you in the context, right, on -- on the international front since that's been a point of focus, you know, on your messaging.

You know, you kind of gave the dynamics in the second half of the year. But when you talk about short-cycle opportunity sets and short-cycle projects, you know, what -- what regions and areas would -- would that be, you know, geared to?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Kurt, I mean, I think that you look around the world that -- where are there either intervention opportunities or, you know, on-shore-type opportunities and off-shore tie backs which -- that starts to lead us to, you know, I would think, you know, through the Middle East that could certainly have application in Asia, the North Sea, as well as in other sort of important market that demonstrates those characteristics. So, you know, I think it's going to be fairly widespread in terms of where I think it's the type of work. And again, the short-cycle-type barrels of what, you know, require less capital upfront, they yield production more quickly, they demonstrate better returns for operators. And I think that that's where we'll see more activity.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

OK. That's -- that's helpful. Appreciate that. And then I want to follow up on your experience, you know, using highline power to run frac in -- in the Permian.

You outlined some benefits of that highline power, you know, relative to turbine-driven eFrac. So -- so, how do you see this evolving, right, Jeff, and what -- what are some of the, you know, what are some of the near-term opportunities for, you know, highline-driven eFrac to accelerate? And then what do you -- what do you see as some of the roadblocks, you know, potentially to the adoption?

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Well, the highline certainly -- our grid-powered frac certainly is the lowest-emission solution. Look, we learned a lot through the first project. And so, early days and still learning. But we have always said about electric that the capital upfront around power was going to be the sticky wicket and one that we were not willing to dive off and invest in because from one day to the next, it's not clear what's most efficient.

We actually knew all along that, you know, ultimately, there would be a better both market for availability, for power. And also, ultimately, grid power. So, I think that, you know, there's a lot of cap -- collaboration that's required. There's a fair amount of technology involved in solving for how to get power where it needs to be.

But -- but I can -- but -- but -- but our -- as I said in my -- my remarks, it's a --it's a very good solution to both the capital efficiency problem and an emissions problem. And you all look forward to seeing it catch on. Though, I don't think it will be immediate because it takes quite a bit of work upfront to get that all put in place. And very much in commitment by the operator to stay the course.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. That's great. I appreciate that color. I'll leave it there.

Thanks for the info.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from George O'Leary with Tudor, Pickering, Holt. Your line is now open.

George O'Leary -- Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. -- Analyst

Good morning, Jeff. Good morning, Lance.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, George.

George O'Leary -- Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. -- Analyst

Yeah, have just get inside into the North American completion services space. And just curious, clearly thus far, the increase in profitability has mostly been driven by cost-out actions on your part, and then utilization increases. I just wonder if you could speak to the supply demand dynamics that you see in the market today and, you know, if there's any line of sight to pricing increases at any point this year or any frac spread count of level that you guys are looking at -- at which you think the market may actually start to tighten up a bit and -- and pricing can increase.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks, George. Look, I think attrition has taken its toll. We certainly saw a lot of it visibly in 2020.

And I think our view is -- or my view is that the supply and demand gap continues to tighten. I also think the market structure is improving. And so -- and as we look forward from here, you know, just normal attrition or normal replacement probably runs 10% to 12%. So, we've got that at a minimum in front of us.

I also think that capital constraints or the, you know, the -- you know, the -- you know, the current market for capital and capital investment makes us a lot tougher for -- for companies. And so, you know, harvesting cannibalization of equipment that we saw in 2020, we also saw entire transactions predicated to a degree on, you know, harvesting equipment as part of that cycle. But all of those things are taking equipment out of the market. And so, you know, could we see some tightening toward the end of 2021? I think so, you know, particularly with our outlook on activity, you know, for the balance of the year.

But I think this is a -- it will continue to -- it -- it -- continue to tighten is our outlook.

George O'Leary -- Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. -- Analyst

OK. Great. Very helpful color, Jeff. And then just thinking through the game plan for growing the specialty chemicals business, you highlighted the -- the plant in Saudi clearly as a key part of this strategy.

But just thinking bigger picture and longer-term, what are all you guys need to execute on to dethrone, you know, the -- one of the larger two players in that space. What's -- what's left to do from here for you guys strategically to really grow that business.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Well, look, our -- our -- our view of that is we stay the course. And, you know, we've got the infrastructure in place in the U.S., we've got -- well, we're, you know, progressing to completion, the plant in the Middle East. You know -- but I -- we're certainly encouraged about what we've done and our outlook. You know, I'm not going to try to predict market shares and those sorts of things.

Look, I like what we're doing and I am confident that, you know, what we're doing continues to improve and grow that business over time. Take a very long view of the chemicals business. It has long sort of cycle times around tenders and awards and those sorts of things. So -- but certainly, all of the plumbing is getting in place now and I'm very encouraged about the outlook for that business, particularly as it applies to mature fields and the kind of sustainable throughout-the-cycle-type activity that it brings.

George?

George O'Leary -- Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. -- Analyst

Great. Thanks, guys. You have both my questions. Thank you very much.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. That concludes our question-and-answer session for today. I'd like to turn the conference back over to Jeff Miller for closing remarks.

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Liz. Before we end the call, I'd like to make a few closing comments. And Halliburton's five strategic priorities are designed to deliver industry-leading returns and to maximize free cash flow. Our strong international business is well-positioned with the right geographies, technologies, and people to deliver profitable growth, while our North American business is recovering and demonstrating margin improvement.

Halliburton's market outlook, strategic priorities, and execution culture make me optimistic about our future. I look forward to speaking with you again next quarter. Liz, please close out the call.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 62 minutes

Call participants:

Abu Zeya -- Head of Investor Relations

Jeff Miller -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Lance Loeffler -- Chief Financial Officer

James West -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Angie Sedita -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Scott Gruber -- Citi -- Analyst

Sean Meakim -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Chase Mulvehill -- Bank of America Securities -- Analyst

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

George O'Leary -- Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. -- Analyst

George OLeary -- Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. -- Analyst

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