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Halliburton posts quartery loss on litigation charges

HOUSTON — Halliburton says it lost $18 million in the first quarter, pulled down by $637 million in charges related to its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

But it made money if unusual items are excluded, beating Wall Street expectations.

Its shares rose almost 4 percent in premarket trading.

The oil services company’s loss amounted to 2 cents per share. That compares with net income of $627 million, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier.

Halliburton, which is in talks to settle claims against it related to the oil spill, said that excluding the charges it posted adjusted earnings of 67 cents per share. That beat the 57 cents that analysts expected.

The Houston company, which provides a variety of services for the petroleum industry, is benefiting from a boom in U.S. oil production, which is at the highest level in more than two decades. At the same time, Halliburton’s natural gas business has slowed as drillers slowed production due to falling prices for the fuel.

Revenue rose slightly to $6.97 billion from $6.87 billion. Analysts expected $6.88 billion.

Halliburton shares jumped $1.44, or 3.9 percent, to $38.65 in premarket trading an hour before the market opening.

Halliburton is the biggest provider of oil field services in North America, including hydraulic fracturing, a technology that has helped unlock large supplies of oil and natural gas from shale rock formations in the U.S.

North American revenue fell 11 percent to $3.71 billion, while operating income tumbled 43 percent to $605 million.

Dave Lesar, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, said a drop in Halliburton’s rig count and pricing pressures in North America were more than offset by the company’s growing international business. International revenue increased 21 percent from a year ago.

For the full year, Halliburton still expects total international revenue growth in the “low teens,” he said.

Rival Schlumberger Ltd., which has a larger international business, said Friday that its revenue climbed in regions such as the Middle East, Europe and Africa, but declined in North America. Its forecast for North America is still uncertain because of lower-than-expected pricing and ongoing softness in pricing.

Halliburton’s Lesar said that his company recently participated in settlement talks related to its role in the 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, with the goal of resolving “a substantial portion” of the private claims.

Lesar said the company’s most recent offer includes both cash and stock, with the cash portion being paid over an extended period of time. He said that while talks are at an “advanced stage,” they have not yet resulted in a settlement. As a result, the company recorded the $637 million charge for the quarter.

Halliburton provided cementing services for BP PLC on the failed Macondo well in 2010. The two sides continue to spar over responsibility for the disaster. BP acknowledges it made mistakes that led to the blowout, but the company denies it was grossly negligent and argues Halliburton also must shoulder blame for the catastrophe.

Halliburton maintains that BP, as the well’s owner, is responsible for the blowout that created the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.



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