Halliburton sees profit growth on improved margins in North America

(Reuters) - Halliburton Co <HAL.N>, the world's No.2 oilfield services company, forecast a 25 percent jump in earnings in the current quarter, helped by a recovery in margins in North America and growth in overseas markets.

Halliburton's shares were up 0.8 percent at $61.40 in trading before the bell on Monday after the company also reported better-than-expected results.

The company, traditionally dominant in the United States, has been making a big push into international markets to combat weakness in North America.

"Our strategy is working well and we intend to stay the course," Chief Executive Dave Lesar said in a statement.

Analysts said the forecast 25 percent growth in second-quarter profit ending June would translate to 91 cents per share, in line with the average estimate.

Drilling activity in North America has fallen due to weak natural gas prices, intensifying competition among oilfield services providers for a smaller number of contracts.

Halliburton said it expects margins in North America to expand over the year due to increased activity across the region in the second half of the year and service-intensive drilling in the United States.

Rivals Schlumberger Ltd <SLB.N> and Baker Hughes Inc <BHI.N> also spoke of improved markets in North America, after posting better-than-expected quarterly profits on Thursday.

Lower prices for pressure pumping services, higher logistics costs and disruptions in drilling due to harsh weather weighed on Halliburton's operations in North America in the first quarter ended March 31.

Robust activity in overseas oilfields helped the company offset weakness in North America as well as in Latin America.

Revenue and operating income increased 13 percent in the Middle East and Asia region in the first quarter.

Revenue in Europe, Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) rose 9 percent, while operating income jumped 21 percent.

Revenue fell 9 percent in Latin America, while operating income declined 8 percent due to reduced drilling activity in Brazil and Mexico.

The company said it expected full-year revenue and operating income from the region to be in line with 2013 levels.

Net income attributable to Halliburton was $622 million, or 73 cents per share, in the first quarter, compared with a loss of $18 million, or 2 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected earnings of 71 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The year earlier quarter included a pre-tax charge of $1 billion related to the Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010.

Halliburton was a contractor for BP Plc <BP.L>, owner of the well that blew out causing the worst offshore oil spill in the United States.

Revenue rose about 5 percent to $7.35 billion, beating analysts' average estimate of $7.24 billion.

Halliburton's stock gained 20 percent this year up to Thursday's close.

(Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)