Calfrac Well Services Ltd.’s quarterly profit blew past analysts’ expectations as it benefited from a drilling boom in North America, prompting the oil-field-services provider to raise its dividend for the second time in just over two months.
The Calgary-based company’s shares climbed 15 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange to their highest in more than three months.
Calfrac, which gets more than 80 per cent of its revenue from North America, has been benefiting from high levels of pressure-pumping activity in the unconventional oil and natural gas plays of Western Canada and the United States.
Analysts, however, have been skeptical of the company’s ability to swiftly move to liquids-rich fields as gas activity slows in the wake of a steep fall in the fuel’s price.
“[Calfrac]is fairly confident things are going to play stronger for longer, so they are putting their money where their mouth is,” UBS analyst Chad Friess said.
Calfrac said it would spend less this year to account for the slowdown in gas drilling, cutting its capital budget by $94-million to $271-million.
The company expects more than 70 per cent of its activities will be focused on oil or liquids-rich natural gas development in 2012.
Larger North American peers like Halliburton Co., Schlumberger Ltd., Baker Hughes Inc. and Precision Drilling Corp. have also gained from strong drilling for oil and gas in shale fields, as U.S. oil prices rose 17 per cent in the quarter.
Calfrac, which operates in drilling-heavy areas such as the Marcellus, Bakken and Niobrara shale formations, gets close to a third of its revenue from its U.S. operations.
The Calgary, Alta.-based company raised its semi-annual dividend to 50 cents from 10 cents a share. In December, the company had raised its dividend by 33 per cent.
For the October-December period, the company earned $78.9-million, or $1.79 a share, up from $16.1-million, or 37 cents, a year ago.
Calfrac, which also has operations in Argentina, Russia, and Mexico, said revenue rose 82 per cent to $490-million.
Analysts on average, were expecting the company to earn $1.48 a share, on revenue of $461.3-million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.