Schlumberger Ltd. said Friday oil drilling has started to recover after a yearlong slump in crude prices that helped cut the company's fourth-quarter profit by 31 percent.
The Houston oil services company said its business will likely benefit as oil demand increases this year.
"Oil prices are likely to be sustained at current levels," Schlumberger Chairman and CEO Andrew Gould said in a statement. And "as our customers' confidence grows, their exploration and production budgets will increase."
The number of rigs actively searching for oil and natural gas in the U.S. grew by 36 percent in the second half of 2009 as crude prices increased from $68 to $80 a barrel.
Schlumberger said it earned $795 million, or 65 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31, down from $1.15 billion, or 95 cents a share, a year ago.
Excluding discontinued operations, profit was 67 cents per share.
Revenue fell 16.4 percent to $5.74 billion from $6.87 billion a year ago.
Analysts expected earnings per share of 64 cents and revenue of $5.44 billion.
Its shares rose 19 cents to $68.50 in premarket trading.
For the full year, the company earned $3.13 billion, or $2.59 per share, on revenue of $22.7 billion.
Gould said that while oil exploration and production operations will grow in 2010, the natural gas drilling business will continue to suffer as the countries burn off excess supplies.
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