Oilfield operator RPC's 3Q profit falls 21 percent

ATLANTA -- Oilfield-services provider RPC Inc. said Wednesday that third-quarter earnings fell 21 percent and revenue declined on lower natural gas prices.

RPC said it ran into a "sluggish" business climate and growing weakness in gas-producing basins.

The slower pace of drilling was reflected in the average U.S. rig count, which fell about 2 percent from a year earlier and 3 percent from the second quarter of 2012. RPC said the average price of natural gas was $2.87 per thousand cubic feet, a drop of nearly 30 percent in one year although it was up 25 percent from the second quarter.

The company said that despite the recent increase, gas prices are still below levels at which its energy-company customers want to drill.

Net income in the quarter was $66 million, or 30 cents per share, compared with $83.1 million, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenues fell 6 percent to $472.4 million.

Analysts expected profit of 28 cents per share on revenue of $488.1 million, according to FactSet.

Overhead costs rose 16 percent to $43 million, climbing to 9.1 percent of revenue from 7.4 percent a year ago. The company said the increase was due to costs of hiring more support staff.

Shares rose 15 cents to $11.82 in afternoon trading.