Halliburton First-Quarter Earnings Fall

Halliburton Co. (HAL), the No. 2 oilfield services company, on Tuesday said first-quarter earnings fell as oil and gas drilling activity slowed in North America and it recorded a raft of one-time expenses, including costs linked to asbestos liabilities.

Halliburton, whose stock hit a 15-year low of $8.50 in January because of concerns about its asbestos liabilities, said net income fell to $22 million, or 5 cents per share, from $109 million, or 25 cents per share, a year earlier.

The Dallas-based company said revenue slipped to $3.01 billion from $3.14 billion a year ago, hurt by decreased drilling in the United States and Canada. Lower energy prices caused by the U.S. recession led to weaker drilling demand.

One-time items resulted in a $33 million net charge. They included a gain on a sale of European Contractors Ltd., the write-off of asbestos-related receivables, and an $11 million charge for severance costs tied to an ongoing restructuring of its energy services, engineering, and construction businesses.

The company expects that a majority of those reorganization costs will occur in the second quarter, although it did not give a specific amount.

Excluding a number of one-time items and discontinued operations, earnings totaled $83 million, or 19 cents per share. On that basis, analysts had expected earnings of 16 cents to 22 cents a share, with an average estimate of 19 cents, according to research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

Halliburton was led until August 2000 by Vice President Dick Cheney. The company's stock has recovered since January, closing at $15.52 on Monday, but it remains well below its 52-week high of $49.25.