World News

Halliburton books $1.1 billion charge, slashes spending by 50%

By Liz Hampton and Nishara Karuvalli Pathikkal

(Reuters) – U.S. oilfield services giant Halliburton <HAL.N> on Monday reported a $1 billion first-quarter loss on charges and outlined the largest budget cut yet among top energy companies as U.S. crude futures plunged to two-decade lows.

U.S. oil prices have collapsed 80% since January and on Monday traded under $11 a barrel <CLc1>, a 34-year low, and below many shale drillers’ cost of production. The coronavirus pandemic has crushed oil demand and prompted a sharp decline in the need for oilfield services.

Halliburton said it would cut this year’s capital outlays by roughly 50% to $800 million, the steepest by a major energy company so far, and reduce other costs by about $1 billion. It has laid off hundreds and furloughed thousands of workers.

The company has no plans to cut its shareholder dividend but added it was a “lever” that could be pulled and promised not to take on debt to protect the payment. Rival Schlumberger <SLB.N> last week cut its dividend by 75%, a move welcomed by investors.

Halliburton, which generates most of its business in North America, booked $1.1 billion in pre-tax impairments and other charges, mostly relating to the value of a pressure pumping business that breaks shale rock to release trapped oil and gas. It posted a 25% drop in revenue from the region to $2.46 billion, while reporting a 5% increase in international revenue to $2.58 billion.

“North America is experiencing the most dramatic and rampant activity decline in recent history,” Halliburton Chief Executive Jeff Miller said in a call with analysts. Customers’ capital spending is headed toward a 50% reduction for 2020, he said.

Oilfield service rivals Schlumberger and Baker Hughes <BKR.N> also recorded large hits to earnings on writedowns and slashed their project spending budgets.

Wall Street analysts were encouraged by Halliburton’s cost cutting measures, and its shares were up about 2% to $7.73 in morning trading. They are down 70% year-to-date.

“We like the company’s proactive mindset and actions,” analysts for investment firm Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co wrote in a note.

Halliburton warned it faced business disruptions from coronavirus-related border closures and travel restrictions that have prevented the company from accessing certain operations, as well as stay-at-home work arrangements.

It reported a net loss of $1.02 billion, or $1.16 per share, in the first quarter, compared with a profit of $152 million, or 17 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding charges, Halliburton earned 31 cents per share, beating Wall Street estimates of 24 cents per share, I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv showed.

(Reporting by Nishara Karuvalli Pathikkal in Bengaluru; Editing by Alexander Smith, Nick Zieminski and Steve Orlofsky)

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