As has become a quarterly tradition, on Friday oilfield services kingpin Schlumberger
Unfortunately, like its energy brethren, the company's results, while topping analysts' expectations, were lower than a year ago by 28%. Perhaps not surprisingly, since this time last year both oil and gas prices were in an upward spiral toward July peaks.
For the quarter, the company earned $938.5 million, or $0.78 a share, versus last year's $1.3 billion, or $1.09 a share. Analysts who follow the company had been anticipating a per-share number closer to $0.74. Schlumberger's dip followed similar declines by oilfield service operators Halliburton
A major culprit during the quarter was a drop in activity and cancellations of projects that spread across the globe, but were especially pronounced in North America, where the rig count was hit hard by shrinking natural gas prices. The company's bigger (90% of revenues) Oilfield Services unit experienced sequential revenue declines in all of its four geographic divisions. At the same time, the far smaller WesternGeco, which specializes in seismic operations, checked in with an 18% year over year hit to revenues.
One of Schlumberger's strengths is the quality of forward-looking statements from its CEO, Andrew Gould. For instance, Mr. Gould noted that "Our visibility on 2009 has not materially changed from the end of the fourth quarter. We do not see any significant recovery in North American gas drilling before 2010. Overseas, while activity declines will be limited, customers are actively seeking and are obtaining price relief."
But all was not negative for Schlumberger. For instance, the company signed a three-year agreement with Brazil's Petrobras
So what should Fools do about Schlumberger? My answer relates to so many quality oilfield service companies today (including Baker Hughes
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. Petroleo Brasileiro is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.