Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) delivered surprisingly strong first-quarter results before the market opened on Monday. The oil-field service giant beat analysts' expectations after adjusting for the huge loss the company booked due to the downturn in the oil market.
That said, the company doesn't see things turning around anytime soon, as its customers continue to demand that it give them a break, which will eat into the company's margins for at least the next few quarters.
Drilling down into the numbers
Halliburton's revenue came in at $7.1 billion, which beat estimates by about $60 million. Revenue wasn't too far off from the $7.3 billion in revenue the company delivered in the first quarter of 2014. Moreover, the company delivered strong income from continuing operations of $418 million, or $0.49 per share, if we exclude special items. While that was down from $623 million, or $0.73 per share, it did beat analysts' muted expectations by $0.12 per share.
That said, it wasn't all good news. The weak oil market did result in the company taking $823 million, or $0.97 per share in charges during the quarter. If we add that back in, the company's actual loss was $639 million, or $0.75 per share. This loss was made up of asset write-offs, inventory write-downs, impairments of intangible assets, severance costs, and other charges (which might have included a kitchen sink or two). The company was also hit by a big foreign currency loss as it recorded a $199 million, or $0.23 per share Venezuela currency devaluation loss, as that country has been hit hard by the oil meltdown. Finally, Halliburton booked a $35 million, or $0.04 per share loss relating to acquisition costs for its pending merger with Baker Hughes (NYSE:BH).
To those who like to look at things from a glass half-full perspective, Halliburton's quarterly revenue was only down 4% despite the fact that the global rig count plunged 19%. That was industry-leading performance in the middle of what was a very challenging market environment.
From the glass half-empty perspective, the company's U.S. revenue dropped 9% and its operating income plunged 54% because of an unprecedented 21% drop in the U.S. land rig count during the quarter. This was driven by pricing pressure and margin compression across all of the company's product lines, which it doesn't see improving anytime soon.
A look ahead
In the company's press release, Halliburton noted that, "industry prospects will continue to be challenged in the coming quarters, and visibility to the ultimate depth and length of this cycle remains uncertain." Because of this uncertainty, the company is focusing on what it can control, which includes cutting its costs and protecting its market position. This will lead to continued margin pressure.
That said, the company is already looking past this part of the cycle and investing in its future. This includes moving ahead with its Baker Hughes acquisition, which it believes will bring cost synergies in the future that will boost margins. That deal, combined with the other investments and decisions it's making now, will maintain the health of its franchise so the company can "emerge even stronger when the industry recovers."
Halliburton is doing everything it can to continue delivering strong results during the weak oil market. However, tough times are clearly still ahead as the company will protect its turf at the expense of margins so it doesn't lose any ground. That's because it still believes the "long-term prospects of the industry remain sound," which is why it wants to be in a position to lead when conditions improve.