Who do you call when you want to increase production at one of your oil wells? Perhaps Halliburton
Third-quarter revenue growth of 6% probably doesn't jump out and grab you. Half of the business, energy services, grew the top line at 23%, but the other half, KBR, saw revenue decline 7%. Although consolidated revenue growth wasn't torrid, operating income growth of more than 100% is nothing to cry about.
The energy services group saw operating income climb 37% despite the impact of the Gulf Coast hurricanes in the quarter. Demand for the company's services was strong across the board, with good growth in drilling and evaluation, fluid systems, and production optimization. In the latter case, there was especially strong demand for well stimulation. This is good news for Halliburton, which leads Schlumberger
KBR continues to be a mixed blessing. While it is still something of a drag on overall performance, the company seems to be turning it around nicely. Though revenue was down, operating income of $150 million reversed the year-ago loss. This unit should benefit from more LNG (liquefied natural gas) projects and the lessons of mistakes past, but I would still expect to see it spun off or sold at some point in the next year.
Although Halliburton trails Schlumberger in most categories, there's plenty of business to go around. In fact, business in the energy services group is strong enough that the company will be pushing through price increases ranging from 6% to 18%. That might be bad news for energy companies, but so long as oil and natural gas prices stay high, they'll pay it.
In the longer term, this is still a cyclical business, even if this particular cycle lasts longer than people currently expect. Accordingly, the stock's near-term movements will more closely follow the day-to-day jiggles in oil prices than they probably should. While I'm not so keen on the stock for the long haul, these are certainly happier days for Halliburton right now.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).