Since the price of natural gas fell off a cliff in the second half of 2011, energy equipment and service companies have seen activity in North America plummet right along with it. Thankfully for them, the international market continues to grow, but the sector can't mooch off other countries for much longer before investors start to get worried. First-quarter earnings season is under way, and Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) and Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) both verified that the current state of the union is still hazy.
One company turns its back on the U.S. and Canada
Of the equipment and services triumvirate -- which also includes Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) -- Schlumberger has been the most keen on focusing its business on the international marketplace. Granted, over the past few years, North America has gained market share in the company's overall revenue generation, but it still makes up only 30.8% of the mix. Compare that with Halliburton, which brought in 56% of sales from the region in 2012 and Baker Hughes' most recent breakdown of 49.7%.
Compared with the same quarter last year, the Middle East and Asia have been leading the pack for the largest equipment and services companies in the business. Revenue in this region grew 21% despite seasonal weather-related delays in South Pacific countries such as the Philippines and the Australasian region. Compare that with our home market, where there's nothing more to write about than the activity in the Gulf of Mexico, which grew 26% year over year for Schlumberger.
When could North America lend a helping hand?
For Schlumberger's competition, a healthy North American market is vital to future success. Thankfully for both Baker Hughes and Halliburton, the turnaround might be upon them. In its release, Baker Hughes cited a 3% drop in the land rig count from last quarter but said it expects an increase to close out 2013. Evidence lies in the fact that natural gas-focused rigs actually grew last week, something that hasn't happened in quite some time.
A growing natural gas rig count is especially sweet news for Halliburton, which is widely known as the industry's hydraulic fracturing specialist. While it lost market share internationally in 2012, the company is still heavily dependent on the success of the natural gas market domestically. Now, the development in natural gas in North America is by no means in question, but the timing is still up in the air as to when it will pick back up. All investors in the company are hoping that now is the time.
Taylor Muckerman owns shares of Halliburton. The Motley Fool recommends Halliburton. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.