Oil Services company Halliburton
In May, the company chose to settle some of the latter suits, while others were dismissed in September, but not before it racked up some hefty legal bills. More appeals, of course, are possible.
So, when Halliburton announced this morning that it was lowering estimates for its third-quarter earnings from $0.32 down to $0.27, and listed ongoing legal fees as one of the culprits for the miss, I had to shake my head. Those must be some massive invoices.
Keep in mind that the $0.32 certainly had factored in ongoing legal expenses, so this miss means that they were higher than expected. How much higher? Well, the company elected not to disclose a breakdown in the overages of legal fees versus other negative developments such as lower operating results from its joint ventures. But let's take it at its word that these two elements were the major components of the lowered guidance. If the legal fee overages amounted to $0.02 per share, with 437 million shares that would come to $8.7 million over what the company anticipated. For the quarter. Unbelievable.
That Halliburton's stock is not getting crushed today is likely a testament to several realities. First, it has been the legal industry's Rosetta Stone for years, and large legal fees may be seen simply as part of doing business. Second, it is sitting in a pretty sweet spot from a business perspective, between the potential for enormous contracts coming from Iraq and the general high price of oil.
A quarter's worth of legal fees have no real impact on Halliburton's potential business gains in either realm, and the legal agreement made last November that cordons off the Halliburton components with asbestos litigation exposure means that the chance of continued negative surprises in this area, at least, has declined somewhat.