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Hunting Sees ‘Slow’ First Half on U.S. Onshore Rigs, Economy

Hunting Plc, a U.K. oil-services provider, expects a “slow” first half because of weak demand in the U.S. It has a better outlook for the rest of the year.

“The first six months is going to be slow, especially in the U.S. with the rig count and the economy,” Chief Financial Officer Peter Rose said today by telephone from London, where the company is based. There’ll be an “uptick” in the last six months, he said.

The shares dropped 2.8 percent to 905.50 pence at the close in London, valuing the company at 1.3 billion pounds ($2 billion). Volumes traded were three times higher than the three-month average.

Active onshore rigs in the U.S. declined by 13 percent last year, according to Hunting. Offshore rigs increased by 19 percent in the U.S. as drilling resumed in the Gulf of Mexico and by 6 percent elsewhere, it said. Exploration at sea will remain strong as stable oil prices encourage companies to search for new deposits or extend the life of existing fields.

The company boosted profits before tax to 80.7 million pounds last year compared with 38.8 million in 2011. Net debt fell 25 percent to 163.8 million pounds, it said today in an earnings statement.

Hunting will be looking at bolt-on acquisitions to expand operations, Rose said. It will stop investing in its exploration and production division, which includes minority equity stakes in about 50 oil and gas wells in the southern U.S., he said.

The subsea unit is “poised for a year of good growth driven by increased offshore global rig counts,” the company said in the statement.

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