* Sees “modest uptick” in rig count in second half
* North America market has turned - CEO
* Expects N.America margins to improve in Q3
* Reports smaller-than-expected Q2 loss (Adds comments from conf call; details)
By Swetha Gopinath and Arathy S Nair
July 20 (Reuters) - Halliburton Co, the world’s No.2 oilfield services provider, said it expects a “modest uptick” in rig count in the second half of the year, but emphasized that the current low pricing environment was unsustainable.
Shares of the company were down about 1.6 percent at $44.24 in morning trading on Wednesday.
Shale oil companies have started putting rigs back to work, encouraged by a near 70 percent jump in U.S. benchmark oil prices since February.
“We believe the North America market has turned,” Chief Executive David Lesar said in a statement on Wednesday.
But the rise in rig count has come without a corresponding jump in spending by oil and gas producers as increased productivity in the hydraulic fracturing process yields more barrels at lower cost.
Lesar said on a post-earnings call that while some efficiency gains were sustainable and would continue, “deep, uneconomic pricing cuts” would have to be reversed.
“Price negotiations have been a bar room brawl,” company President Jeffrey Miller said on the call.
With signs of recovery, the company has walked away from money-losing jobs in recent months and has been reviewing every contract and program, down to individual wells, Miller said.
“It’s a tough market, but we believe pricing will recover as activity increases.”
The company expects margins in North America to improve by 100 to 200 basis points in the third quarter.
Halliburton derives about 40 percent of its revenue from North America and is more exposed to the region than larger rival Schlumberger NV.
Excluding a $3.5 billion fee Halliburton paid Baker Hughes Inc for terminating a proposed acquisition and other items, loss from continuing operations was 14 cents per share in the second quarter ended June 30.
Analysts on average had expected a loss of 19 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Halliburton and Baker Hughes scrapped their deal - valued at about $35 billion when it was announced in November 2014 - in May after opposition from U.S. and European antitrust regulators.
Net loss attributable to Halliburton was $3.21 billion, or $3.73 per share, in the quarter, compared with a profit of $54 million, or 6 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue fell 35 percent to $3.84 billion, but beat analysts’ average estimate of $3.75 billion.
Schlumberger is scheduled to report its quarterly results on Thursday, while Baker Hughes will release its earnings on July 28. (Reporting by Swetha Gopinath and Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza and Sriraj Kalluvila)