Darren Kugler
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Darren Kugler in Commodities,

Oil Servicers Say Tumbling Crude Hasn’t Changed Outlook

The recent tumble in crude prices hasn’t shaken the faith of two of the world’s biggest providers of drilling and production services.

Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) said yesterday that oil would have to continue falling to $75 a barrel and stay there for a few months before energy companies will cut back spending. Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) described the drop as “fear of short-term oversupply” and said it wasn’t changing a long-term view that its earnings will almost double from last year’s level by 2017.

West Texas Intermediate, a U.S. benchmark for oil, fell briefly below $80 a barrel for the first time since June 2012 on booming North American output and reduced demand forecasts. Brent crude, the global benchmark, reached an almost four-year low of $82.60 a barrel yesterday.

“The challenges of maintaining non-OPEC supply outside North America, the lack of growth in OPEC sustainable production capacity maintaining tightness in OPEC spare capacity, and the continuing geopolitical risks in some key producing regions all lead to a supply-demand situation that is relatively well-balanced,” Paal Kibsgaard, chief executive officer of Houston-and Paris-based Schlumberger, said in a statement.

Schlumberger has dropped 12 percent and Baker Hughes has declined 21 percent since Sept. 29, as Brent prices fell 13 percent. The companies provide energy producers with services including drilling wells, hydraulic fracturing and mapping underground oil pockets.

Some Skepticism?

Schlumberger’s view “will be taken with a little bit of skepticism,” said Edward Muztafago, an analyst at Societe Generale AG in New York who rates the shares a buy and owns none. “The fear right now over what’s going on in the market will probably trump the commentary.”

The world’s largest oilfield servicer reported earnings that beat the average of 31 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The results continue its streak of exceeding estimates every quarter since the end of 2011.

Kibsgaard said in June that Schlumberger’s projected earnings growth was based on oil prices of about $100 a barrel. Futures prices for WTI averaged $103.46 a barrel during the third quarter.

Customers of Baker Hughes, the world’s third-largest oil servicer, don’t believe crude prices will stay low, Martin Craighead, chairman and chief executive officer of the Houston-based company, told analysts yesterday on an earnings conference call.

“The returns are still quite attractive,” Craighead said. “Right now, it’s full steam ahead.”

Baker Hughes reported quarterly adjusted profit that missed estimates.

If U.S. oil prices stay below $80 for a quarter, energy producers “are going to sober up” and reduce spending, T. Boone Pickens, chairman and CEO of BP Capital LLC, said in an Oct. 9 interview. “It’s getting their attention.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/