(Reuters) - Oilfield services provider Schlumberger NV on Thursday forecast rising international and offshore exploration spending this year, after posting a 20 percent drop in first-quarter profit due to weak North American demand.
The oilfield services sector bellwether said it expects a 7 to 8 percent increase in investments by oil producers in markets outside North America, citing a 20 percent increase last quarter in offshore rig counts and growing exploration activity in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
"We still see a fairly decent runway for increased international investments," Chief Executive Officer Paal Kibsgaard said, citing higher new project approvals and a renewed interest in exploration outside North America.
Second-quarter earnings per share will be 35 cents, in line with the Wall Street consensus estimate, said Kibsgaard. He cautioned seasonal factors would preclude the potential for exceeding that figure.
Shares rose 1.8 percent to $48.27 in early trading, adding to the nearly 31 percent increase this year through Wednesday.
Schlumberger previously forecast high single-digit percentage growth in international markets this year and a 10 percent year-over-year decline in onshore North American customer spending due to constraints on producer spending.
U.S. oil producers remain wary of boosting spending, despite record U.S. oil production and a recovery in crude oil prices, as they focus on earnings growth to pacify shareholders.
Schlumberger's cash flow from operations fell to $326 million in the first quarter, from $568 million a year earlier.
Net income declined to $421 million in the three months ended March 31, from $525 million a year earlier.
Earnings per share of 30 cents were in line with analysts' average estimate, while revenue of $7.88 billion beat estimates of $7.81 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
"We think Q1' 19 marks the earnings trough for SLB, but we've still questions about what the margins trajectory for the company will look like as attractive international top-line growth finally starts to kick in," Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co analyst Byron Pope said.
Pretax operating margins dropped 91 basis points to 11.5 percent in the quarter.
Rival Halliburton is expected to post first-quarter earnings on April 22, while General Electric Co's Baker Hughes is set to post numbers on April 30.
(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Susan Thomas)