Halliburton Quarterly Profit Up, Excluding Items

Halliburton reported higher fourth-quarter profit before special items on Friday, just above analysts' forecasts, as high energy prices stoked global demand for its oilfield services.

The company also offered reassurance about the outlook for its North American business, which investors have been watching intently due to a slide in natural gas prices.

Income from continuing operations fell nearly 40% to $667 million, or 65 cents a share, from $1.1 billion, or $1.03 a share, a year earlier, including a $540 million tax benefit.

Excluding special items, earnings rose to 62 cents a share from 51 cents, beating the average forecast of analysts polled by Thomson Financial by a penny.

"I think it's an OK quarter," RBC Capital Markets analyst Kurt Hallead said. "It's not gangbusters."

Quarterly revenue rose 8% to $6 billion from the year prior, topping expectation for revenues of $5.9 billion.

"Although we experienced weather-related activity decreases and holiday impacts in the United States during the fourth quarter, we expect demand for our services to remain strong
throughout 2007," Chief Executive Dave Lesar said in a statement.

On a conference call with analysts, Lesar said that the company has been able to negotiate price increases, despite declines in natural gas prices, and he does not expect U.S. margins to decline in 2007.

KBR , which is about 80%-owned by Halliburton, reported lower fourth-quarter profit and sales on reduced activity from construction and military sites in Iraq.

The Pentagon's largest contractor in Iraq, KBR said income from continuing operations fell to $43 million, or 28 cents a share, from $48 million, or 35 cents a share, a year earlier.

However, profits were well above the Thomson Financial consensus estimate of 18 cents a share.

KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, said consolidated revenue fell 8% to $2.5 billion.

The engineering and construction services company, which had its initial public offering in November, has faced several investigations into alleged overbilling in Iraq.