UPDATE 2-Precision Drilling profit halves as gas drilling slows

Thu Oct 25, 2012 12:02pm EDT
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* Q3 EPS C$0.14 vs C$0.29 yr ago

* Q3 rev down 2 pct to C$485 mln

By Maneesha Tiwari

Oct 25 (Reuters) - Precision Drilling Corp, Canada's largest drilling contractor, reported a 53 percent slide in quarterly profit as gas firms cut drilling in the face of weak demand and sliding gas prices.

Natural gas prices in the third quarter fell 29 percent from last year, pushing the number of rigs drilling for gas in the United States to a 13-year low this month. ()

A pause in the rapid growth of drilling for oil in the North Dakota Bakken also hit earnings, Precision CEO Kevin Neveu said in a statement.

The fourth quarter should be stronger, as there is a seasonal uptick in Canadian drilling, said BMO Capital Markets analyst Michael Mazar, but he added the weak gas market would still weigh on demand.

"Ultimately they still need natural gas price support, specially in the United States, to stop the decline in natural gas directed drilling, he said.

Precision's net income fell to C$39 million ($39 million), or 14 Canadian cents per share, from C$83 million, or 29 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue fell 2 percent to C$485 million.   Continued...