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EARNINGS PREVIEW: Oil Services Companies Adapting To Shift

By Melodie Warner Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES TAKING THE PULSE: Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) has warned it is facing a difficult adjustment as companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) retreat from natural gas drilling amid a 10-year low in the commodity's price. Investors will be watching the reports of other oil services companies to see if those issues are widespread or, as suggested by some analysts, unique to Baker Hughes. New tactics like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are unlocking energy trapped in vast shale formations around the U.S. And while these tactics can be used to extract both oil and natural gas, companies have become particularly interested in oil-rich shale, forcing oil field-services companies to adjust course. COMPANIES TO WATCH: Halliburton Co. (HAL) - reports April 18 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently expected a profit of 86 cents a share on $6.8 billion in revenue, compared with 61 cents a share and $5.28 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: Halliburton, the top seller of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, services in North America, saw its fourth-quarter North American revenue jump 56%. The company has said strength in the segment should persist into 2012 with continued improvements in drilling and completion efficiency, as well as higher demand for services. Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) - reports April 20 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently expected a profit of 98 cents a share on $10.57 billion in revenue, compared with 71 cents a share and $8.72 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: The world's largest oil field services company has predicted oil consumption and oil field activity will continue to grow through 2012, driven by relatively high energy prices and large oil companies' expanding their reserves. With natural gas prices falling to 10-year lows amid a combination of oversupply and lackluster demand, Schlumberger has said it will build flexibility into its spending plans. The company saw a 36% jump in fourth-quarter earnings, thanks in part to oil-related activity in areas like the deep-water U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Latin America and continued drilling in onshore North America. Nabors Industries Ltd. (NBR) - reports April 24 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently expected a profit of 51 cents a share on $1.81 billion in revenue, compared with 29 cents a share and $1.41 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: Last month, the land drilling contractor unveiled plans to raise at least $800 million from selling oil and gas properties and other noncore businesses as it tries to reshape itself. Nabors has admitted it strayed off target in its exploration and production forays and missed growth opportunities in the U.S. The company, which owns the world's largest fleet of land rigs, started selling its oil and gas fields late last year. Charges related to the exit of its former chief executive and losses at natural-gas assets that are up for sale contributed to its swing to a fourth-quarter loss, while revenue jumped 32%. Weatherford International Ltd. (WFT) - reports April 24 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently expected a profit of 29 cents a share on $3.65 billion in revenue, compared with 10 cents a share and $2.86 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: Weatherford in February unveiled accounting errors that would adjust previously reported financial results for 2010 and earlier by roughly $225 million to $250 million. In the wake of the restatements, Weatherford named John H. Briscoe as its new chief financial officer to replace Andrew P. Becnel, and said James M. Hudgins, its vice president for tax matters, would leave the company at the end of March. Despite Weatherford's revenue reaching new highs amid a boom in North American oil-and-gas development, the company's bottom line has lagged behind rivals because of charges and weakness in its international operations. Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) - reports April 24 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently expected a profit of 83 cents a share on $5.27 billion in revenue, compared with 87 cents a share and $4.53 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: Baker Hughes last month warned its first-quarter operating profit would decline from the prior quarter because rapidly changing market conditions have hurt its pressure-pumping product line in North America. The drilling-services provider said the continued shift of U.S. rig activity to oil and liquids-rich basins has decreased fleet utilization, lowered pricing and increased personnel and logistics costs. The market shift has also contributed to shortages of, and higher costs for, critical raw materials such as gel. (The Thomson Reuters financial estimates and year-earlier figures may not be comparable due to one-time items and other adjustments.) -By Melodie Warner, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2283; melodie.warner@dowjones.com

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