(Adds details on outlook, background)
Feb 6 (Reuters) - Patterson-UTI Energy Inc said on Thursday it expects its rig count to modestly increase in early 2020 after falling sharply in the fourth quarter.
The oilfield service provider's rig count averaged 123 in the fourth quarter down from 183 rigs last year, due to a decrease in drilling activity early in the fourth quarter.
However, Patterson-UTI's rig count increased for the first time in a year in December and the company said it expects activity to improve further.
In the first quarter, increasing rig count in the Permian basin should more than offset lower activity in other markets, the company said.
Patterson-UTI also reported a smaller fourth-quarter loss, as it slashed costs by half in the face of ongoing decline in North American drilling activity.
Industry giants including Schlumberger and Halliburton have undertaken major reorganizations, cut jobs and put up assets for sale in order to get through a period of low demand for fracking equipment and services.
Net loss narrowed to $85.9 million, or 44 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from a loss of $201.2 million, or 93 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue fell 38.1% to $492.3 million, but came in above analysts' average estimates of $486.3 million. (Reporting by Taru Jain; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)