Last updated: April 22, 2013 7:35 pm

Halliburton sets aside $1bn for Gulf costs

Halliburton, the oil services group, has set aside another $1bn before tax for the cost of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, pushing it into a loss for the first quarter of the year, and said it was at an “advanced stage” in talks about a settlement of some of the claims against it.

Halliburton provided the cement used to seal BP’s Macondo well, and is facing actions for damages from businesses, individuals and state and local governments in the Gulf of Mexico region.

Dave Lesar, Halliburton’s chief executive, said it was in court-facilitated settlement talks “with the goal of resolving a substantial portion of private claims”.

He said its most recent offer included both stock and cash “with the cash components payable over an extended period of time”, and although discussions were at an advanced stage they had not yet resulted in a settlement.

The $1bn pre-tax provision in the first quarter, which adds to $300m the company set aside a year ago, “is based on where we are in the negotiations at the present time”, Mr Lesar said.

Excluding those costs, Halliburton’s first-quarter post-tax earnings from continuing operations were down 24 per cent at $624m, or 67 cents per share.

Revenues rose 2 per cent to $6.97bn, with the effect of the fall in North American onshore gas drilling more than offset by international growth, but the company was hit by one-off costs in Argentina and Brazil.

Bill Conroy, an analyst at MLV, an investment bank, said margins in North America were better than expected, as the company benefited from the falling price of guar, a plant extract used in fluids used for hydraulic fracturing in shale oil and gas wells.

The results were well received by the market, and in early afternoon trading in New York Halliburton’s shares were up 4.5 per cent at $38.90.

At the end of last week, the states of Florida and Mississippi added themselves to the list of bodies suing Halliburton over the spill, just meeting the deadline of three years after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010.

In Florida’s court filing, it accused Halliburton, along with BP, of “wanton, reckless and grossly negligent conduct” that caused the accident.

Halliburton has denied the allegations.

At the trial in New Orleans over damages arising from the spill, a Halliburton executive said he believed the company bore “zero” responsibility for the disaster that hit the Macondo well project, which was being run by BP.

However, Halliburton has been criticised by Carl Barbier, the trial judge, for the late presentation of evidence.

Judge Barbier said he was “very troubled” by the “drip, drip, drip, drip” of evidence.

Mr Lesar said Halliburton was pursuing settlement talks “because we believe that an early and reasonably-valued resolution is in the best interests of our shareholders”.

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