Jan 30 (Reuters) - Oilfield services company Weatherford International Ltd said it would cut 7,000 jobs and warned that its fourth-quarter profit would miss its forecast, hurt by severe winter in North America and operational disruptions in the Middle East.
The company, which had about 70,000 employees at the end of 2012, said in November profitability at its North American operations would improve in the fourth quarter.
Weatherford shares fell more than 2 percent to $13.54 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Weatherford said it expects to earn 5 to 8 cents per share in the fourth quarter. It expects to earn between $1.10 and $1.20 per share in 2014, compared with analysts' average estimate of $1.22, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company said half of the $500 million annual savings from the job cuts would help 2014 profit.
The job cuts are expected to be completed in the first half of 2014, it said.
The company was recently fined $253 million by U.S. regulators to settle long-running federal charges that included flouting sanctions against Iran and Syria, and sending business partners on World Cup soccer junkets.
Weatherford, based in Switzerland, is the smallest of the four large oilfield services firms - Schlumberger Ltd, Halliburton Co and Baker Hughes Inc.
Weatherford gets about 45 percent of revenue from North America and 18 percent from the Middle East and North Africa.
The company said on Thursday that its net debt had been reduced by nearly $700 million during the fourth quarter.
It paid back some debt with the cash portion of the proceeds it received from the sale of its stake in Russian submersible pump producer Borets International.
The company now has about $14.36 billion in total liabilities, including short-term borrowings and long-term debt, as of Sept. 30.