Halliburton back in profit after a $1bn spill charge

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OIL services firm Halliburton swung to a profit of $623m (£370.9m) in the first three months of the year, propelled by extra work in the Middle East and Asia that offset slower activity in the USA.

The result compares to a $13m loss a year ago, when Halliburton booked $1bn in charges for ongoing lawsuits linked to the Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 2010.

The explosion at BP’s Macondo well four years ago, which killed 11 people and spilled nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf, continues to generate litigation and controversy for BP and its partners over cleanup costs and compensation.

Halliburton, a contractor on the Macondo rig, pleaded guilty to destruction of evidence last July.

The firm yesterday posted record first-quarter revenues of $7.3bn, up 5.4 per cent and ahead of forecasts as more drilling work in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East contrasted with sluggish activity in Brazil and Mexico.

In Halliburton’s American heartland, weather disruption and higher costs kept a lid on profits in shale drilling, with explorers hanging back on projects while the price of natural gas fell. However, the company expects margins to improve during the rest of the year.

“We continue to forecast that full-year Eastern Hemisphere revenue growth will be in the low double digits, and average full year margins will be in the upper teens,” said boss Dave Lesar.