Halliburton Company Earnings Call Insights: International Opportunity Set and Margin Driver

Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

International Opportunity Set

James West – Barclays Capital: Dave, when I saw you back in January and February, there were two things that really struck out of my mind from our conversations. The one was that on the international side, you talked about the opportunity set being really the largest you’d ever seen; and then number two, that this was really the time to test pricing in the international markets. So, I wonder, if we could kind of revisit that if you could talk about that opportunity set. Is it still as large as you thought couple of months ago; and then really the second is on the pricing side, are you starting to see some – more pricing discipline from your competition, are you starting to see pricing rise?

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David J. Lesar – Chairman, President and CEO: Yeah, I think with respect to the first comment the opportunity set in the international markets remains as large as it has been and I think the largest set that we’ve certainly seen within recent history. So those opportunities haven’t gone away. I think the other point that I should make is that they’re not with – sort of the Brazil tendering process behind us, the opportunities that is a whole lot of sort of medium-sized types of opportunities. It’s not any big mega type tenders out there, which gives us and our competitors I think an opportunity to sort of test where we are in terms of pricing. If you look at where we are bidding today and where we’re winning work, I think we certainly have hit the bottom in terms of international pricing. Believe me it’s still competitive, but I believe that that we’re seeing that it is starting to turn up.

James West – Barclays Capital: Then maybe just one follow-up on Mexico. We got some contract retendering that has to go through. How long is that process expected to take before you can get back to work there?

David J. Lesar – Chairman, President and CEO: I’ll let Jeff handle that one…

Jeff Miller – EVP and COO; and Chief Health, Safety and Environment Officer: There are a couple of big things to happen sort of mid-year. So I would expect that through the process, we’ll see some sorting out of budgets early at the end of Q1 and then tenders mid-year and it’s probably later in the year before sort of budgets are refreshed and back to work. But I would expect during the balance of this year we’d see that.

David J. Lesar – Chairman, President and CEO: I think one other thing I might add, James, is that on these contracts, we’ve gotten extensions on a number of them, but its (indiscernible) any rig count that’s less than what we had been working at while we wait on these tenders to come forward. That’s really part of the reason that the margins have got squeezed, but as I said we look at that as sort of a one-off issue.

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Margin Driver

Waqar Syed – Goldman Sachs: My question relates to North America. It seems that margin improvement was much higher than we expected and it feels better than what you expected as well. Could you provide, Mark, what was the source of – the upward surprise in margins in the first quarter?

Mark A. McCollum – EVP and CFO: As we look at it, we thought probably just given a lower level of activity expected in Q1 that we would only get a couple hundred basis points from guar savings. I think that Street knows that we had said that we thought we could get 400 basis points to 450 basis points of improvement in our North America margins from the turn in our guar inventories. We I think in the first quarter just given the higher activity levels got about 300 basis points of that savings on guar, which leaves the remaining 100 or so for the second quarter, which I talked about in my prepared comments. The rest of it really when you look at it is activity related – very strong activity for us. We got our crews back to work much faster than we thought we would on the pressure pumping side when you look across our Drilling and Evaluation divisions, they did extremely well. We saw almost 200 basis points of marginal improvement across D&E as well. So the activity increase for us just well exceeded the pressure that we saw from continued pricing that we had from rolling some of our pressure pumping contracts in the first quarter.

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Waqar Syed – Goldman Sachs: And in terms of – this is the first time that I have heard you guys be positive on the pricing front as well. What has changed – what gives you that confidence that pricing could pick up later in the year?

David J. Lesar – Chairman, President and CEO: Yeah. Now look — the conversations that we’re having with clients these days or more — are becoming more geared towards making better wells, which leads very quickly into a discussion around chemistry and chemistry application and those are applications of our technology, and so maybe not two day, but that’s the leading edge of the right discussion to have with the company like Halliburton because we do make better wells and we’ll use that technology.

A Closer Look: Halliburton Earnings Cheat Sheet>>