Precision Drilling sees smaller loss, ups 2018 capex

(Reuters) - Canadian rig contractor Precision Drilling Corp PD.TO, PDS.N reported a smaller-than-expected loss on Thursday as its U.S. clients deployed more of the company's rigs to take advantage of rising oil prices. Precision's number of rigs at work in the United States rose by 36 percent to 64 on average during the first quarter.

“As a result of increased demand in our U.S. operations, we are increasing our projected capital spending by C$22 million,” Chief Executive Kevin Neveu said, adding that about half of that would be used to expand and upgrade the drilling fleet.

Its Canadian count fell to 72 active rigs on average from 76 a year ago as transport bottlenecks and high production costs saw a number of oil majors withdraw from the country.

Revenue from rig utilization per day was up 3.8 percent to C$22,209 in Canada, while it rose marginally to $20,603 in the U.S.

Excluding items, the company lost 6 Canadian cents per share. Analysts on average had expected Precision to lose 7 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net loss narrowed to C$18.1 million ($14.09 million), or 6 Canadian cents per share, in the first quarter ended Mar. 31, from net loss of C$22.6 million ($17.61 million), or 8 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to C$401 million from C$368.7 million.

($1 = 1.2849 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Karan Nagarkatti in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber