SCHLUMBERGER CUTS 20,000 JOBS
A recovery in the global oil and gas industry has been delayed and companies will continue to cut their spending next year, the chief executive of the oil services group Schlumberger has warned.
Paal Kibsgaard, chief executive and chairman, said the outlook for the industry was "increasingly challenging" as a result of the fall in oil prices since last year, adding that the business environment in the third quarter had continued to deteriorate.
He gave the warning in a statement as Schlumberger reported third-quarter earnings per share that were 48 per cent below the equivalent period of 2014, but slightly above analysts' expectations.
The group's North American operations have suffered the worst in the downturn, with a 47 per cent drop in revenues since last year to $2.27bn. Revenues in the rest of the world fell 27 per cent to $6.07bn.
Profit margins have also been squeezed in North America, dropping by more than 10 percentage points to 8.9 per cent, as the oil and gas production companies that are Schlumberger's customers have sought to cut their costs and spare capacity has built up for equipment such as the pressure pumps used for hydraulic fracturing of shale oil and gas wells.
The company has already announced plans to cut 20,000 jobs — about 15 per cent of its workforce — and Mr Kibsgaard promised to "continually adjust our resources in line with activity."
Schlumberger, which is registered in the Netherlands Antilles and listed in New York, is the world's largest oil services company by market capitalisation. Its shares fell less than 1 per cent in after market trading on Thursday.
Mr Kibsgaard argued that in the oil market "the fundamental balance of supply and demand continues to tighten", driven by solid global economic growth and "dramatic" cuts in oil exploration and production spending.
Even if prices start to rebound, Schlumberger expects oil and gas exploration and production companies to cut their activity again next year, "as lack of available cash flow exhausts capital spending for a number of our customers, leading them to take a conservative view," Mr Kibsgaard said.
He added that the company remained "focused on managing our cost base."
The third-quarter results underlined the strains imposed by the slide in oil prices. Revenues fell 33 per cent to $8.5bn from the equivalent period a year ago, while profits shrank to $989m, or 78 cents a share, from $1.9bn, or $1.49 a share, a year ago.
Schlumberger has been seeking to use the downturn to plan for the long term, agreeing in August to buy Cameron International, a manufacturer of oilfield equipment, for $14.3bn.
It has also been looking to develop the capability to build what it calls "a new generation of land drilling rigs". In September Schlumberger agreed to form a joint venture to build rigs with the Bauer Group of Germany, and bought a company specialising in land rig design called T&T Engineering Services.
Shares in Schlumberger have dropped 29 per cent since crude prices began their slide in late June 2014.
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EIA - Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $79 per barrel (b) in September, up $6/b from August. EIA expects Brent spot prices will average $74/b in 2018 and $75/b in 2019. EIA expects West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices will average about $6/b lower than Brent prices in 2018 and in 2019.