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Halliburton: Rising Guar Gum Costs to Have Bigger Impact On North America Margins

By Nathalie Tadena Halliburton Co. (HAL) said its fiscal second quarter North America margins will be affected more than previously expected by a rise in the cost of guar gum. Shares of the oilfield-services company were recently up 1 cent at $29.13. The stock is off some 38% over the past 12 months. Halliburton noted the price of guar gum, which is used as a blending additive for the fluids utilized in hydraulic fracturing, have inflated more rapidly than the company had expected due to concerns over potential shortages later in the year. As a result, Halliburton said its North America margins will be affected 300 basis points more than its previous guidance of 200 to 250 basis points, for a total impact of 500 to 550 points lower than first-quarter levels. The company said these increased costs are transitory once new supplies are available in early 2013 and said it is looking to mitigate these costs in the second half of the year through "seeking relief from customers" and increased use of synthetic and other guar alternatives. Halliburton will release its results July 23. In April, Halliburton reported its first-quarter earnings rose 23% as it continued to benefit from the shift of rig activity to oil and liquids-rich basins even as natural-gas drilling declined. A drop in natural-gas prices has prompted many energy companies to abandon dry gas drilling and shift activity toward profitable oil-rich shale formations in North America. Halliburton is the top seller of North American hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, services, which crack open deeply buried oil-and-gas-bearing rocks, including shale. But the relocation of oilfield services toward these new areas has created some logistical and cost hurdles that have pressured the company's margins to 14.9% in the first quarter from 15.4% the year before. Fracking costs have risen even as demand for the service in natural-gas fields has declined. Write to Nathalie Tadena at nathalie.tadena@dowjones.com

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