WRAPUP 1-Schlumberger, Baker top estimates with global drilling
* Offshore drilling strong in North America
* Middle East and Asia drive international demand
* Schlumberger shares up 3 pct, Baker shares up 4 pct
Oct 18 (Reuters) - Steadily growing drilling activity in U.S. offshore waters and overseas gave a bigger-than-expected lift to quarterly profits at oil services companies Schlumberger Ltd and Baker Hughes Inc, marking a clear divide with struggling smaller U.S. competitors.
Schlumberger Chief Executive Paal Kibsgaard pointed to demand from the Middle East and Asia and drilling off the coast of North America, where prices for onshore services remain suppressed by a natural gas glut.
Baker Hughes shares climbed 4 percent in premarket trading Friday while Schlumberger rose 3 percent following third-quarter earnings reports from both companies.
Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield services company, topped analysts' profit estimates for the eighth consecutive quarter with a 20 percent rise in earnings.
A seasonal rebound in Canadian drilling contributed to record-high quarterly revenue, with about two-thirds of the total generated outside North America. The company cited improvement in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
"Internal initiatives within the company should drive continued financial performance given (its) size and product breadth," wrote UBS analyst Angie Sedita, referring to an efficiency drive outlined by Kibsgaard last month.
Schlumberger said net income rose to $1.71 billion, or $1.29 per share, from $1.42 billion, or $1.07 per share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 11 percent to $11.61 billion. Analysts on average had expected $1.24 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Baker Hughes, the industry No. 3, said profit growth was also driven by strong activity in the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
It reported net income growth of 22 percent to $341 million, or 77 cents per share. Excluding one-time items related to restructuring in Latin America, it earned 81 cents per share, while analysts had expected 78 cents.
The Houston-based company has ramped up operations outside North America, where the rig count that it compiles is at three-decade highs.
Smaller U.S.-focused players, exemplified by Superior Energy Services and its profit warning this week , are facing a tougher time as U.S. drillers become more efficient at well sites.
Shares of Schlumberger and rival Halliburton Co have risen about 17 percent in the past three months, while Baker has gained 6 percent.