February 28, 2012 / 11:34 AM / in 6 years

UPDATE 3-Calfrac profit beats estimates, ups dividend

* Q4 EPS C$1.79 vs est C$1.48

* Q4 rev C$490 mln vs est C$461.3 mln

* Hikes div to C$0.50/shr from C$0.10/shr

* Shares up 15 percent

By Aftab Ahmed

Feb 28 (Reuters) - Calfrac Well Services Ltd’s quarterly profit blew past analysts’ expectations as it benefited from a drilling boom in North America, promting the oilfield services provider to hike its dividend for the second time in just over two months.

The Calgary-based company’s shares climbed 15 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange to their highest in more than three months.

Calfrac, which gets more than 80 percent 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 C$94 million to $271 million.

The company expects more than 70 percent of its activities will be focused on oil or liquids-rich natural gas development in 2012.

Larger North American peers like Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Precision Drilling have also gained from strong drilling for oil and gas in shale fields, as U.S. oil prices rose 17 percent in the quarter.

Calfrac, which operates in drilling-heavy areas such as Marcellus, Bakken and the Niobrara, gets close to a third of its revenue from its U.S. operations.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company raised its semi-annual dividend to 50 Canadian cents from 10 Canadian cents a share. In December, the company had raised its dividend by 33 percent.

For the October-December period, the company earned C$78.9 million ($78.9 million), or C$1.79 cents a share, up from C$16.1 million, or 37 Canadian cents a share, a year ago.

Calfrac, which also has operations in Argentina, Russia, and Mexico, said revenue rose 82 percent to C$490 million.

Analysts on average, were expecting the company to earn C$1.48 a share, on revenue of C$461.3 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

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