With some trendsetting companies, my tendency is to pay more attention to what they say about their business when they release earnings than to their exact numbers. That is certainly the case with Schlumberger
Not surprisingly, Schlumberger's first-quarter 2007 results, released last week, were solid. Net income of $1.2 billion, or $0.96 per share, was up 4% from the final quarter of 2006, but 63% stronger than the comparable quarter a year ago. The company's oilfield services unit, the larger of its two operating divisions, increased its revenue to $4.8 billion, up 28% year over year. Its smaller WesternGeco sibling raised its year-on-year revenues by 33%.
So much for the numbers, which apparently were about a nickel higher on the EPS line than had been anticipated. It's clear, however, that much of the world's hydrocarbon activity has been stronger than that of North America.
As Gould noted, "First-quarter sequential revenue growth was driven by acceleration of international activity in GeoMarkets in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. In North America, moderate sequential seasonal growth in Canada and strong exploration activity in Alaska partly offset slowing activity on land in the U.S. and a change in the service mix in the U.S. Gulf Coast."
And he also touched meaningfully on the aging of the world's production base, a reality that represents a major challenge to energy producers in the years ahead: "We continue to believe the most fragile element of current supply projections is the age of the existing production base and the consequent failure of current activity levels to slow decline rates. This environment, coupled with delays in the increasingly complex projects that operators are undertaking, means that the supply response to create adequate levels of spare production will take longer than we originally anticipated."
Schlumberger also has completed negotiations regarding rig management and engineering assistance with PDVSA, the national oil company of Venezuela. This connection will be important in the face of the nationalization of key production areas in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and the dismissal of operators and major international producers ExxonMobil
Schlumberger continues to perform well in an energy environment that is becoming steadily more internationally diverse and challenging. Since neither of these tendencies are likely to diminish, this largest -- and probably most sophisticated -- of the oilfield service companies should be prominently displayed on the radar screens of Foolish investors.
For related Foolishness:
- Energy's Sweet and Sour World
- Foolish Forecast: Somebody Order a Schlumberger?
- Schlumberger Uncorks Another Strong One