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UPDATE 3-Schlumberger takes over $12 bln charge as CEO charts new course

Shariq Khan

(Recasts lead, adds details on pressure pumping market)

Oct 18 (Reuters) - Schlumberger NV's new chief executive officer wielded an ax to the company's asset-heavy businesses, taking a $12.7 billion charge in the face of weaker shale drilling and sliding profits.

The move by Olivier Le Peuch reverses his predecessors' big investments that took the world's largest oilfield services company deeper into shale and oilfield operations and shows that he intends to shift the company toward more software and services-driven arms.

The charge pushed the company to post a more than $11 billion loss, its largest ever.

Excluding the charge, the company's profit beat Wall Street estimates as higher international drilling activity boosted demand for its equipment and services and helped counter weakness in North America.

Shares of the company rose 2.8% in early trading and were the biggest boost to the S&P's energy index.

A cut in spending by oil and gas producers has hit North America pressure pumping business the hardest, forcing rival Halliburton Co to cut 650 jobs across Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and North Dakota, while sources told Reuters that ProPetro Holding Corp slashed 150 workers this month.

The charge included $1.58 billion related to the pressure pumping business in North America, Schlumberger said.

"That's a sizable writedown from pressure pumping business. That just tells you the state of the North American onshore market being pretty poor," said Anish Kapadia, founder of London-based oil and gas consultancy firm AKap Energy.

North America rig count stood at 1,002 as of Oct. 11, 256 fewer than a year earlier. Globally traded Brent crude prices have fallen about 18% in the third-quarter to average $62.03 per barrel, amid trade tensions and oversupply from U.S. shale fields.

Revenue from the company's international business rose 8% in the third quarter, while revenue from North America fell 11%.

The international business has been a bright spot for Schlumberger since last year as investor pressure to improve returns has forced North American oil and gas producers to rein in drilling new wells in a volatile price environment.

Excluding items, the company earned 43 cents per share, beating estimates of 40 cents, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Revenue was largely unchanged at $8.54 billion, but beat expectation of $8.50 billion.

Shares of Schlumberger rose 1.1% to $32.35 before the bell. (Reporting by Shariq Khan and Taru Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)