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Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 24, 2011 9:00 am ET

Executives

David Lesar - Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Member of Policy Committee

Christian Garcia - Vice President of Investor Relations

Timothy Probert - President of Global Business Lines & Corporate Development and Member of Policy Committee

Mark McCollum - Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President and Member of Policy Committee

Analysts

Daniel Boyd - Goldman Sachs

Kurt Hallead - RBC Capital Markets, LLC

John Anderson - JP Morgan Chase & Co

William Herbert - Simmons

Waqar Syed - Macquarie Research

Jeff Tillery - Tudor Pickering

Brad Handler - Crédit Suisse AG

Stephen Gengaro - Jefferies & Company, Inc.

James West - Barclays Capital

Ole Slorer - Morgan Stanley

Angie Sedita - UBS Investment Bank

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Halliburton's Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to your host today, Christian Garcia, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations. Please begin.

Christian Garcia

Good morning, and welcome to the Halliburton Fourth Quarter 2010 Conference Call. Today's call is being webcast, and a replay will be available on Halliburton's website for seven days. The press release announcing the fourth quarter results is available on the Halliburton website. Joining me today are Dave Lesar, CEO; Mark McCollum, CFO; and Tim Probert, President of Strategy and Corporate Development. In today's call, Dave will provide opening remarks, Mark will discuss our overall financial performance, and Tim will provide comments on our operations and business outlook. We will welcome questions after we complete our prepared remarks.

I would like to remind our audience that some of today's comments may include forward-looking statements, reflecting Halliburton's views about future events and their potential impact on performance. These matters involves risks and uncertainties that could impact operations and financial results and cause our actual results to differ from our forward-looking statements. These risks are discussed in Halliburton's Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009, Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2010 and recent current reports on Form 8-K. Our comments include non-GAAP financial measures. Reconciliation to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures are included in the press release announcing the fourth quarter results in our IR website. Dave?

David Lesar

Thank you, Christian, and good morning to everyone. Before discussing our fourth quarter results, let me begin by what I believe we accomplished in 2010. First, we strengthened our market leadership position by aligning our business to the industry's fastest-growing segments and deploying the full suite of our technical capabilities. We also commercialized key technologies like our ESTMZ [Enhanced Single-Trip Multizone] Completion System and GeoTap IDS that serve to solve our customers’ challenges in their most complex projects. We also introduced our CleanSuite of technologies, including a first of its kind fracture fluid system, comprised of material sourced entirely from the food industry, setting a new standard for how unconventional resources can be accessed and produced in the future.

And lastly, we built infrastructure and secured key contract wins in Iraq, West Africa, Australia, Brazil, the North Sea and other places that are setting us up to benefit in the coming international cycle. Our 2010 total year results indicate the successful execution of our strategy, with total year revenue growth of 22% and operating income growth of 51% and market-leading returns of 15%. I believe we are in a great position for the opportunities and challenges we see in 2011.

Let me now turn to our fourth quarter results. Overall, I'm very pleased with our results in the fourth quarter where we experienced double-digit growth in both North America and our international operations. Revenue of $5.2 billion represented growth of 40% over the prior year and represents the highest quarterly revenue in the company's history. Operating income more than doubled, led by a fivefold increase in North America. On a sequential basis, all regions showed double-digit revenue and operating income growth except for Latin America where we continue to experience challenging conditions in Mexico.

Let me provide some detail now starting with North America. North America had another good quarter, with revenue and operating income increasing 10% sequentially, continuing to outpace the U.S. rig count of 4%. We historically see a moderation of our revenue per rig in the fourth quarter due to the effects of our holiday schedule and weather-related seasonality in the Rockies. However, the continued shift to oil plays with the unrelenting increase in completions intensity outweighed these seasonal impacts this year. In addition, we achieved this 10% sequential performance despite a significant reduction in revenues and operating income in our Gulf of Mexico business due to the completion of the Macondo relief well efforts where we provided most of the services.

And in fact, we lost money in our Gulf of Mexico operations in Q4. We continue to believe that the prospects for a recovery in the Gulf of Mexico will remain uncertain through the first half of 2011 and perhaps the full year. However, I do believe it's prudent that we maintain all of our infrastructure and most of our headcount in anticipation of a rebound in the Gulf. And I'll make a comment on that later.

In the fourth quarter, we continue to experience tightness and equipment shortages in basins that are undergoing rapid growth like the Eagle Ford and the Bakken. Average rig count in those two basins grew about 20% from Q3 to Q4, and discussions with operators indicate that the escalation in activities for these plays is not abating. Further, well complexity continues to rise within these plays, with lateral lengths that are now reaching beyond a mile. In fact, one operator has indicated that their future wells in the Eagle Ford will be drilled with an approximately 10,000-foot lateral, an increase from the current average length of 6,000 for that basin.

Longer laterals, of course, mean more frac stages and higher demand in utilization of horsepower capacity. The shift in the oil and liquid-rich plays continues; it was quite apparent in the fourth quarter. The U.S. rig count grew sequentially 4%, but gas activity was down 2% and oil directed rigs increased 15%. This shift has been ongoing since the start of 2010 and, as our results demonstrate, has been beneficial in the dramatic recovery in our revenue and operating income.

Work in the oil and liquids-rich plays can be as service intensive as the dry gas basins because these reservoirs require complex fluid systems to enhance conductivity along the entire length of the lateral. In addition, operators are using increased number of stages to exploit their production potential. This is evidenced in the Bakken shale where the leading-edge count of frac stages now exceeds 40. The average number of frac stages per well in the industry has more than doubled in the last two years. It is possible that this rate may moderate in the coming year. However, the continued shift to liquids suggests that the growth in the average number of stages will remain high in 2011.

Now there is, of course, a continuing debate going on about the potential for an oversupply situation in pumping equipment into 2012 that may lead to a precipitous decline in the industry's margin. We do not share that view as it applies to Halliburton, and we believe that there are mitigating factors that may moderate the impact of new equipment on the industry's margins.

First, pricing in the fourth quarter continued to improve, albeit in smaller increments. This has served to offset the cost of inflation for labor, freight and materials. With our increased volume of revenues, we also saw increased profitability improvement in our U.S. land operations in Q4. Going forward, we believe there are areas where we'll be able to continue to increase prices and believe operating margin expansion will be driven by continued drilling and completions intensity on the work that we see in the current and new unconventional basins.

Second, unconventional resources are lending themselves to large well programs and have resulted in operators entering into longer-term contracting arrangements to ensure continuity of the supply for pressure pumping services. We believe that a large proportion of the new equipment coming into the market is under these types of longer-term contracts. This will reduce the amount of speculative or opportunistic capacity that will chase the call out market and with it, the potential to exert downward pressure on stimulation prices.

Next, we believe that the number of uncompleted wells increased during the fourth quarter, and now are in a range of about 3,200 by the end of the year. Further, we expect that this count will rise in the first quarter of 2011 despite the anticipated capacity additions. This should provide stability to frac demand even in a flattening rig count scenario.

Next, we saw the industry’s number of wells drilled per rig increase approximately 15%, resulting from the application of drilling optimization techniques. As the number of wells continues to increase on a per rig basis because of these incremental efficiencies, we believe that stimulation demand can continue to outpace the rig count.

Also, international capacity is growing rapidly, with the development of new projects for unconventional resources. We recently performed the first shale job in Mexico. We were just recently awarded the Paris Basin work in Continental Europe by a major IOC and mobilized for additional projects in Argentina and other areas. The development of the international unconventional resources will provide an expanding channel for the absorption of our stimulation equipment.

We've also aligned our business and equipment with operators that are levered to oil and liquids-rich basins, and we anticipate that the shift will persist throughout 2011. Beyond this strategy, as we outlined in our Analyst Day in November, we are also reinventing our service delivery platform to optimize efficiencies. We continue to make progress on delivering the key technologies in this reinvention process, which we believe will result in us sustaining our North American margin leadership position.

As I have mentioned in the third quarter call, one of our competitive advantages is that we manufacture all of our own pumping equipment and are able to make rapid adjustments to our build plan if necessary. I can tell you, we will remain focused on delivering the highest returns for our shareholders, and we will adjust our build schedule if we see the influx of new capacity threatens to overwhelm stimulation demand and if margins come under pressure.

As I stated earlier, our Gulf of Mexico business declined dramatically from third quarter levels and considerable uncertainty exists in the coming quarter as operators attempt to meet new regulatory requirements. Our large customers in the Gulf have indicated that they continue to be committed to the Gulf of Mexico and their portfolios there. And as I said, we will maintain our infrastructure to make sure that we can support them when they go back to work. However, we believe any meaningful increase in activity levels in the Gulf is unlikely for the first half of the year.

Let me now turn to our International business, starting with Latin America. Latin America experienced sequential revenue growth, but flat operating income as continued strong growth in Brazil and Colombia offset a sequential decline in our Mexico operations. In the fourth quarter, our Mexico business was impacted by weather-related issues in the south, while overall activity across other parts of the country did not recover from the lackluster levels we saw in the third quarter.

Mexico is a market that is still in the process of repair and the environment continues to be uncertain going into 2011. Despite the headline announcements that we've all seen, that indicate a resurgence may occur toward the end of 2011, at this point, we see no tangible evidence that any recovery will materialize in the next few quarters.

In the past year, Latin America growth has been led by Brazil and Colombia with rates up to 30%. We believe that robust growth will continue in these countries, combined with stable activity in Argentina and Venezuela. However, overall growth in the region will be tempered until such time as the Mexico market recovers.

Now turning to the Eastern Hemisphere. Our Eastern Hemisphere showed double-digit sequential growth due to a rebound in Norway, Algeria, Angola and the ramp up of our activities and revenue in Iraq. These increases in activity, as well as the typical year-end increases for Landmark software sales, completion sales and direct sales, contributed to the growth. We are also pleased to report that we were modestly profitable in Iraq for the fourth quarter, and we continue to build our employee base in that country. We currently have nearly 600 personnel working in Iraq and expect that to grow to nearly 1,200 by the end of the year to handle the work that we have won. We continue to win work in Iraq. In addition to the awards that we have publicly announced, we were recently awarded a 15-well package by an IOC.

Due to the timing of the ramp-up in activity and start-up costs in Iraq, our results are likely to be uneven in the first half of the year. However, fourth quarter results and our current win rate for contract validates our early mover strategy and gives us confidence that we will meet our goals of having sustainable, profitable operations starting in mid-2011.

Pricing in the Eastern Hemisphere remains highly competitive across all geographies and weighed on the industry's overall international results for all of 2010, and of course, that included the fourth quarter. We anticipate steady volume increases in 2011, but international pricing will remain competitive until existing capacity has been absorbed. However, it is clear to us that the macroeconomic trends support a very favorable operator spending outlook as we move forward.

Given the significant prospects that we see and the excellent future demand that we see in the Eastern Hemisphere, particularly in deepwater and unconventional gas, we are executing several key initiatives in 2011 to continue to lower our cost of service delivery and to expand our manufacturing and technology footprint. First, in 2011, we are going to build additional manufacturing and technology infrastructure in the Eastern Hemisphere for our completions business. Our strategy serves to align our supply chain capabilities and technology development closer to our customer base in the Eastern Hemisphere.

In addition, we are building a world-class, state-of-the-art new technology center in Houston, and we'll be incurring costs in 2011 to consolidate several existing facilities in other parts of the U.S. into this new facility. These key investments reflect our strong belief that we are on the verge of a major up cycle in spending by our customers and will be a necessary step to meet our growth, return and margin goals. And Mark will discuss the impact of these investments in a couple of minutes.

So to summarize, 2010 was a very successful year for Halliburton. We saw a dramatic recovery of our business and continued to expand our market position. In 2011, we will continue to build on this success to put us in a unique position to benefit from the upcoming cycle and achieve our objectives of superior growth, margins and returns. Mark?

Mark McCollum

Thanks, Dave, and good morning. Let me provide you with our fourth quarter financial highlights. Our revenue in the fourth quarter was $5.2 billion, up 11% from the third quarter and 40% from the prior year. Total operating income for the fourth quarter was $980 million, up 20% from the previous quarter. The third quarter results included a noncash charge of approximately $50 million to write down our residual interest in the Sangu oil and gas project. Going forward today, I'll be comparing our fourth quarter results sequentially to the third quarter of 2010, excluding the impact of the third quarter noncash charge.

Sequentially, North America revenue and operating income grew 10%. North America margins in the fourth quarter were steady as higher land activity and some pricing improvements offset the decline in Gulf of Mexico. We historically see our first quarter results affected by some weather-related seasonality in the Rockies and the Northeast U.S. and the extremely cold weather this month across the northern part of the country suggests this year will be no different.

Internationally, revenue and operating income grew 11% and 15%, respectively, driven by activity improvements in certain key markets and seasonal increases in Landmark completion tools and direct sales at the end of the fiscal year. For the first quarter, we are anticipating a sequential decline in international revenues and margins due to the absence of these typical year-end seasonal activities, as well as seasonal weather-related weakness in the North Sea and Eurasia.

Now I'll highlight the segment results. Completion and Production revenue increased $330 million or 12% and operating income grew 13%, led by continued growth in our North America operations. Looking at Completion and Production on a geographic basis, North America revenue increased by 12%, while operating income grew by 13% from higher U.S. land and Canadian activity, combined with some pricing improvement. Halliburton continues to benefit from increased completions intensity from the development of unconventional resources.

In Latin America, Completion and Production revenue posted a 4% sequential increase in revenue, but operating income declined by 14%, as higher activity in Brazil and Colombia were offset by lower vessel activity and weather-related issues in Mexico. In Europe, Africa, CIS, Completion and Production revenue and operating income increased 18% and 29%, respectively. Higher activity levels in Norway, increased vessel utilization in West Africa and completion tool sales in Algeria partially offset project completions in the U.K. and lower activity in Nigeria and Russia. In Middle East/Asia, Completion and Production revenue and operating income increased by 10% and 4%, respectively, due to increased work in Iraq and higher completion tool sales in Asia.

In our Drilling and Evaluation division, revenue and operating income were up 8% and 10%, respectively, due to the year-end seasonality of higher Landmark and direct sales and increased activity in the North Sea, West Africa and across North Africa. These improvements were partially offset by the revenue decline in the Gulf of Mexico and Eurasia.

In North America, Drilling and Evaluation's revenue was up 6%, but operating income declined by 1% as higher land activity was offset by the impact of the Gulf of Mexico. D&E experienced growth in the high-single digits for U.S. land as most of our product service lines continue to benefit from the 6% increase in horizontal drilling during the fourth quarter. Drilling and Evaluation's Latin America revenue and operating income increased by 6% and 10%, respectively, due to increased software sales and fluids services across the region.

In the Europe, Africa, CIS region, Drilling and Evaluation revenue and operating income were up 8% and 11%, respectively, due to the recommencement of several projects in Algeria, higher activity in the North Sea, West Africa and Egypt, and increased software sales across the region. Drilling and Evaluation's Middle East/Asia revenues and operating income were up 14% and 24%, respectively, due to higher drilling activity in Iraq and increased direct sales in Asia.

Our effective tax rate was 31% for the fourth quarter and 32% for the full year. With the current geographic and product line mix of our business, we expect our tax rate to be between 31% and 33% in 2011, consistent with our rate for 2010.

On October 15, we retired $750 million of principal amount of our 5.5% senior notes with available cash and equivalents. This reduced our interest expense and we are projecting interest expense for 2011 to be about $67 million per quarter.

And finally, as Dave mentioned earlier and as we alluded to in our Analyst Day presentations back in November, we're going to be making some additional investments in our business model throughout 2011 to lower our service delivery costs in North America and to reposition our supply chain, manufacturing and technology infrastructure to support our projected international growth. These investments include systems and consulting costs to upgrade our SAP, order to cash and purchase to pay capabilities, relocation and training costs for personnel and asset moves to international locations. We intend to separately highlight these investments for you as we go, but I currently expect the impact to be about $0.02 per share in the first quarter. Tim?

Timothy Probert

Thanks, Mark, and good morning, everyone. Besides the sustainability of North America margins, there's wide interest in understanding the progress of the international recovery. Current international rig count is a little above 1,100, exceeding the prior peak of September 2008. Despite this, the pace of recovery is lagging that of past cycles, but revisiting previous international downturns provides some insight into the pace of this recovery.

The length of this downturn coincides well with that of the 2001 to 2003 cycle, which spanned approximately five quarters. In that cycle, the company's revenues and those of the industry rebounded consistent with activity. This resulted in the company's international revenue per rig remaining stable throughout the 2001 cycle in contrast to the current cycle where the company's revenue per rig in the fourth quarter was approximately 8% below that of Q4 2008.

The influence of the global financial crisis on the industry and its impact on services pricing is well understood. However, another contributory factor is the affect of activity mix in this downturn. In the 2001 cycle, land activity declined, but offshore rig count remained stable at around 225 rigs. This contrasts sharply with the current international cycle where the offshore rig count dropped by 12%, surpassing the 8% decline in land activity, and as of the end of December, the offshore count was only approaching the average of Q2 2008. Given the service intensity of offshore work, we believe this resulted in a more extensive impact on industry revenues, a more significant capacity overhang, and consequently, a more pronounced drop-off in pricing.

In addition, 70% of the current international activity resurgence has been confined to five generally less service intensive countries: Argentina, Egypt, India, Colombia and Venezuela. Major markets like Mexico, Australia, Saudi and others have not yet fully recovered, which narrowed the scope of the recovery. However, as Dave mentioned, we're anticipating that the industry will experience steady volume increases in the coming year, leading to relative tightness of international equipment supply and a more positive outlook for improvement in pricing.

We will support this with an acceleration of new technology introductions into current long-term contracts, now that value can be more easily extracted as activity improves. Dave?

David Lesar

Thank you, Tim, and let me just quickly summarize. North America remains strong and given our visibility and the continued growth in drilling and completions intensity, we believe that we can sustain revenue growth and margins in 2011. We'll see the typical drop off for our international revenues and margins in the first quarter. But beyond that, we continue to believe that volume increases will be steady and price competition will remain tough.

And lastly, we ended up a year in a great position and we'll continue to leverage our expanded market position to benefit in what we see as a wonderful upcoming cycle. So let's go ahead and open it up for questions at this point.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Bill Herbert with Simmons & Company.

William Herbert - Simmons

With regard to trying to crystallize, if you will, your pretty sanitary outlook for North America in terms of a combination of pricing and service intensity leading to better margin resilience that maybe some can really appreciate. First of all, with regard to the percentage -- trying to get a sense as to how -- what percentage of your dedicated frac crews in the U.S. are basically committed for this year. I mean, effectively, are you completely sold out for this year or do you have significant swing capacity? Frame that for us, please.

David Lesar

Yes, Bill, I think that if you look at what we have now and what we have coming out, it is pretty well committed to the customer base that we want to work with. Now not all of it is committed under long-term contracts because we do want to see if there is additional upside in pricing that exists out there, and I do believe that there is. But we have committed the assets to certain customers, but we may not have completed the contract that would wraparound those set of assets.

William Herbert - Simmons

And then at this juncture -- I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but based upon your sort of conceptual framing of the opportunities and threats, if you will, for this year, it doesn't sound like as if you are expecting North America margins over the course of this year to actually weaken. Is that a correct statement?

David Lesar

That's correct statement.

William Herbert - Simmons

And then I've got one for Mark, and then I will hand it off. Mark, what percentage of the Eastern Hemisphere top line quarter-on-quarter was driven by year-end software direct and completion sales?

Mark McCollum

We don't typically give that kind of data, but I would say that it was very much in line with what we've seen historically.

William Herbert - Simmons

Well, we had about $215 million, I think, of Eastern Hemisphere top line revenue and yet, Dave, in the press release, pointed out several international markets which seemed to be improving intrinsically. Was it as much as a third of the quarter-on-quarter growth?

Mark McCollum

No, it's probably is higher than that, so maybe half.

Operator

Our next question comes from Angie Sedita with UBS.

Angie Sedita - UBS Investment Bank

First question just on the North American margins for the fourth quarter which were 24%. Without the loss in the Gulf of Mexico with the completion of the Macondo relief efforts, what do you believe margins would have been in the fourth quarter for 2010?

David Lesar

Angie, we're not going to say that. They would have been higher, obviously, since we lost money in the Gulf of Mexico. But I think what we have found over the past several quarters, if we talk about our U.S. land margin, it becomes a target by which our competitors go after our pricing model. So just -- suffice it to say, obviously it was higher than the 24% that we had for our U.S. business.

Angie Sedita - UBS Investment Bank

And when you think about the last soft cycle we had in North America 2008, 2009, Halliburton gained market share as the industry turned down. I believe price concessions were given more quickly by the smaller players. What would you expect -- if the market reaches that point this cycle, how does it play out?

David Lesar

Well, I think if it plays out that way, and as I said, we don't believe at least as it applies to Halliburton, that is a scenario that will play out in 2011. But if it did, I expect that it would have a very similar outcome in that because of our ability to integrate the fact that we are aligned with the customers that we believe will be the last to put rigs down, the ones that are more liquid or rich gas focused, that we would gain market share, and our pricing would come under pressure probably at the end of the line of the other pumping companies.

Angie Sedita - UBS Investment Bank

And then finally, on Iraq, obviously very good progress here in Q4 already. How do you see this evolving over 2011 and beyond?

David Lesar

I think, as I indicated in my comments, we've been successful winning work. As you know, we took an early approach of building bases and sending equipment into Iraq. There were some that criticized that at that point in time because we did not have rigs to sort of lead the efforts there. But I think with the work we've won and the results we're showing and the fact that we went from -- I believe, we had 14 employees at the beginning of 2010 and nearly 600 employees at the end of 2010 in Iraq, it shows that, I think, that strategy has worked and continues to work and we're very excited about our prospects there.

Operator

Our next question comes from Brad Handler with Credit Suisse.

Brad Handler - Crédit Suisse AG

Could you please speak to, I guess, 2011 on a couple of different standpoints? If I think about what I feel like that we've heard this morning versus some of the messaging from your Analyst Day in November, it sounds like what was a bit more selective about growth prospects has broadened somewhat for 2011. So could you confirm that? And if so, maybe speak to -- help us think about from a top line growth in the Eastern Hemisphere, for example, what percentage growth might you be looking at now versus where you were, perhaps, thinking about back in November?

David Lesar

Yes. I think, Brad, I don't think it is inconsistent with what we talked about at our Analyst Day. We believe growth in the international markets will be led by deepwater and be led by unconventional gas in the long run. Currently, where we're seeing the activity increases is places like Algeria, like Iraq, which typically are land-based and are not deepwater and are not unconventionals. As I indicated, we do see activity increases happening throughout 2011. The big wild card is just how tough the pricing environment continues to be, and we'll just have to watch that and let it play out.

Brad Handler - Crédit Suisse AG

Has there been some change in sentiment in conversations with your customers, given the move in oil prices in the last two or three months?

David Lesar

I mean, certainly, the contact level and inquiry level from customers about the availability of equipment, about the availability of resources has gone up. And I think the customer base is getting more convinced that the higher liquids prices are really here to stay and they need to move on with projects, so the discussions have increased. But remember, the international market is typically a tender-based market and it takes a while for those inquiries to turn into tenders, to turn into awards, to turn into work. So as I said, we are very, very bullish on the fact that we're coming into a big spending up cycle in the international market here. But I think people need to understand that it's not a matter of just picking up the phone and going to work. There's quite a process involved from the time you get the first inquiry to the time you bill your first revenue.

Brad Handler - Crédit Suisse AG

And related to that perhaps, but maybe not, you spoke of pretty significant CapEx in your Analyst Day. It sounds like you're filling that in for us here, but is the CapEx guidance of the $3 billion for 2011, is that maintained today?

Mark McCollum

Brad, this is Mark. We're still at that same number about -- we had said, I think, at Analyst Day, it would be $2.5 million to $3 million. And I think at this point, we anticipate it will be on the high end of that guidance.

Operator

Our next question comes from Stephen Gengaro with Jefferies & Company.

Stephen Gengaro - Jefferies & Company, Inc.

Two things. I guess the first, when we look at the next couple of quarters, I guess the first half of '11, should we expect the Gulf of Mexico loss to be about the same as it was in the first quarter, i.e., the impact on margins in NIM to be about where it was in 4Q?

David Lesar

No, I think that we have been successful winning some work on the shelf. We've been successful in redeploying some of those assets that did work on the Macondo relief well efforts. So I don't think that we would expect to lose money at the rate we did in Q3. Once the relief well effort was done, it just sort of fell off the wall and now we're in the process of redeploying. But we don't really see much happening in the first half of 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico. So I would say, I think we're expecting maybe a break even to a little bit of a loss over the next couple of quarters.

Stephen Gengaro - Jefferies & Company, Inc.

When we think about the well intensity and horsepower requirement issues in the U.S. and I know you talked a lot about this at your Analyst Day. When we think about sort of framing where margins can go in the North American land business versus prior upturns, any kind of commentary on that? Could it be better, the reasons it would be worse, how should we think about that?

Timothy Probert

Yes. I mean, certainly, as we continue to look at the North America market, service intensity continues to improve, we will continue to see the number of stages advance. And as that happens, that's obviously going to have an impact on the selection of service providers and it's also going to have an impact on potential margins. So I don't think we particularly want to opine too deeply on what margins can do. But is there continued potential to move margins? Yes, there is.

Operator

Our next question comes from David Anderson of JPMorgan.

John Anderson - JP Morgan Chase & Co

Dave, you mentioned the reinvention of your service delivery platform. And as it relates to really the kind of the pricing model that you talked about last quarter for your larger customers in dry gas basins, just wanted to know where that stands right now in terms of the uptake. Can you give us a sense of how big that business is right now? I mean is it like 5% of your North American business? Is it -- like how do you see that progressing, I guess, over the year?

David Lesar

I think the dry gas basin part of our business still is fairly large. We haven't abandoned that set of customers, but moving toward a business model that helps them reduce their costs and helps us reduce margins, we really were just tippy toeing into that in Q3. We've gotten a little more into it in Q4. I’ve had some further discussions with customers as late as last week on choosing places to implement it. But it's not a substantial piece of our business at this point in time.

John Anderson - JP Morgan Chase & Co

And then last quarter we were talking about -- you had mentioned 3,200 wells or so uncompleted and I think last quarter, if I'm not mistaken, you said three to four months of equipment backlog in certain basins. Some of the E&Ps we've been hearing lately have been talking about really kind of capacity has been alleviated -- capacity should be alleviated in the Haynesville, but how does that now look in kind of the Bakken, Eagle Ford and some of the others? Are you still seeing that kind of backlog, and kind of how does that progress over the next couple of quarters in your mind?

David Lesar

Well, I think if you look at, again, the oil basins, liquid basins, like the Eagle Ford and the Bakken, you are still substantially backlogged on work and there is not enough equipment in those markets. I think that we are seeing some rigs start to leave the Haynesville, but they're going directly to the Eagle Ford to go to work. So yes, there is the number of wells in inventory is set up as a high range of where we thought it would be. As I indicated, we believe it will go up even more in Q1, which I think Dave indicates to you that there's still an imbalance between the ability to get to that work with the available horsepower versus the rate the wells are being drilled at.

John Anderson - JP Morgan Chase & Co

And one last question, on your CleanSuite of frac-ing services, obviously it's a response to some of the criticism the industry has faced. How does the performance stack up and does this work better in some plays than others? And I guess I would assume the -- probably the pricing would be higher here. Am I wrong on that?

Timothy Probert

Dave, this is Tim. A couple of points there. Firstly, CleanSuite has performed extremely well. It is essentially a very clean system, free of impurities. And as a result of that, the IPs that we've seen from the wells which we’ve treated have been particularly attractive. So that's a very good piece of news for us in terms of the introduction of the technology. And secondly, yes, as you would expect, we want to ensure that we attract the pricing for that, which is consistent with a) the performance and b) clearly, this is a more expensive system than that, that would just be traditionally used. But we believe that the benefits are quite significant.

Operator

Our next question comes from Jeff Tillery with Tudor, Pickering.

Jeff Tillery - Tudor Pickering

Could you guys update us just on your outlook for Russia, kind of how contract rollover progress has occurred, and just qualitatively discuss how pricing is progressing in that market?

Timothy Probert

Yes. I think that with Russia in 2011, you've got just two things going on. First of all, in Sakhalin you're going to see some declines in activity, and the service intensity there in Sakhalin is very high. So the decline in Sakhalin activity does have an overall impact in subduing the overall growth in Russia. But the progress of the bidding process in Q4 has proceeded well. We expect to see a continued advance in both Western and Eastern Siberia in 2011.

Jeff Tillery - Tudor Pickering

And is pricing at a point where it allows margin expansion or just to offset inflation?

Timothy Probert

I think, like everywhere in the international markets, pricing is challenging. I would say it's particularly most challenging, I believe, in the pressure pumping arena. There's clearly some oversupply in that market which continues, and I would say that's probably in terms of overall pricing impact, that's probably the area which is the least attractive of all the offerings that we have in Russia.

Jeff Tillery - Tudor Pickering

Just Algeria was mentioned on the positive side of the ledger for both segments in the fourth quarter. How would you characterize that market going forward? Is it closer to being business as usual? Or just how would you characterize it?

David Lesar

This is Dave. I was just in there last week, so let me comment on that. It's not business as usual yet. I think that some of the lack of decision-making process that was necessitated by the change in management is getting in the rear view mirror at this point in time. The IPM rigs are starting to come back to work which is good for the industry and good for us, and there's a lot of potential work being bid in there. So it's slowed down dramatically. It's stayed down much longer than the industry thought it would. It's being lead back out by sort of the IPM efforts, and we would expect then that sort of the normal service efforts of Sonatrach and the other IOCs that are in there should give it an additional boost as we go through the next year or so.

Operator

Our next question comes from Dan Boyd with Goldman Sachs.

Daniel Boyd - Goldman Sachs

Dave, I'm trying to just understand how to think about Eastern Hemisphere margin progression from here and just recognizing there will be the seasonality in 1Q. So if we were to just strip out the benefit from the product sales that you got in 4Q, was there an underlying improvement in the margins?

Timothy Probert

Yes. This is Tim, Dan. Yes, there was an underlying improvement in margins x the direct sale component.

Daniel Boyd - Goldman Sachs

And then on the inquiry front, what you're hearing from customers, recognizing that it takes some time before you actually see it in activity, has there been a change in the mix of inquiries you're getting? Are they moving more towards offshore, are you seeing an interest in exploration picking up, and how do you think that progresses through the first half in 2011?

David Lesar

Well, I think, with respect to the inquiries, I would say they're focused in three areas: exploration, unconventional gas and sort of deepwater development. And how I would see that progressing is inquiries will turn into sort of statements of work, will turn into tenders and will turn into awards. But given the fact that the IOCs which tend to drive the deepwater market generally have to deal with NOC partners in most of these locations, that sort of cycle from inquiry to award sometimes does take a lot longer than all of us would like.

Daniel Boyd - Goldman Sachs

So it's a more of a back half of the year event than it sounds like?

David Lesar

Yes, I would think so.

Operator

Our next question comes from Ole Slorer with Morgan Stanley.

Ole Slorer - Morgan Stanley

When it comes to the international shale or unconventional opportunity that you've highlighted a couple of times, could you just discuss a little bit the start-up costs involved and also in the new regions? So is this going to be a slight drag on profits as you build up? And when do you, let's say, expect profitability to benefit from infrastructure leverage and get sort of North American style margins?

Timothy Probert

Ole, this is Tim. I mean clearly, we benefit in North America from scale, a substantial amount of scale. And where we are specifically with shale gas developments as opposed to other unconventionals, specifically with shale gas right now, is we're really in the exploration phase and that exploration phase is in multiple areas. As you heard Dave talk earlier, we talked about our first shale activity in Mexico. I think on the last quarter's call, Dave talked about the first shale well, which has been stimulated in Poland, for example, so that continues. But very much large acreage positions by a number of our customers. They're trying to assess those acreage positions and really understand how they can apply sort of full-scale factory-type activities to those plays. So yes, we will see a slower ramp up. And the amount of hydraulic horsepower in the Eastern Hemisphere or I should say in the international markets is probably only about 25% of that existing in North America. So the overall ability to move rapidly is going to be a function of pulling together equipment to exploit these areas. And I think it's reasonable to expect that our customers will be working closely with us to try and put together packages, which whilst they may not be necessarily optimal for the long term, give an opportunity to really better understand the potential productivity of these plays.

Ole Slorer - Morgan Stanley

So if you think about the scale, clearly a lot of press releases coming out at the moment for the risks of China, or whatever it is, how should we think about this year relative to, let's say, a very vibrant recovery potentially in Norway or in the U.K. or some of the more classic high margin basins?

Timothy Probert

As I say, they really are in the exploration phase right now, so we've got to go from the exploration phase through into a full-scale development, which is going to take multiple quarters for us to get to that point.

Operator

Our next question comes from Jim West with Barclays Capital.

James West - Barclays Capital

Dave, I was particularly interested in the announcement of this major reinvestment and capacity expansion in the Eastern Hemisphere. It's obviously a clear bullish signal on the cycle. What are the key steps in your process, the time line, the CapEx required? And once you're completed here, how will your infrastructure compare to that of your closest competitor?

Mark McCollum

Jim, this is Mark. I'll try to talk more generally about it. The major capital cost will be the build out of technology centers and manufacturing capacity in some locations in the Eastern Hemisphere, particularly in Asia, that we're embarking on this year. And the capital investment will be a couple of hundred million dollars probably this year. It will spill over probably into 2012 as well in order to finish that capacity. That's the major thing that we'll be doing. In terms of being -- other infrastructure, we're already in 70 countries around the world. I mean, it's not a significantly different infrastructure investment that we'll need to make other than what will reflect just the growth in our business over the next couple of years. But the technology center, the manufacturing centers and the completion of those will -- capital investment will fall largely into this year, and then we’ll be training and moving people as we go through the year. So that we'll try to have them fully staffed as we move out of 2011 and into 2012. Simultaneously, we're going to be making some investments in transaction centers in Latin America and Asia, training people there. We're working on SAP. We've got consultants with Accenture and others helping us on supply chain and our purchase-to-pay and order-to-cash process here at North America. So all of these activities are going to be going on simultaneously to try to help us be the lowest-cost service provider wherever we work, not just here in North America, but also around the world.

Operator

Our next question comes from Kurt Hallead with RBC Capital.

Kurt Hallead - RBC Capital Markets, LLC

So I'm curious on the international pricing front, I know it's not a story that's new necessarily. About prior cycles, you typical couldn't get international pricing and international markets couldn't be strong without the U.S. markets necessarily being strong as well. We're now a couple of years as you have mentioned into a cycle recovery and just wondering where the excess capacity resides right now within the industry. Maybe you can give us some general sense on that from a product line standpoint and potentially from a geographic standpoint as well.

Timothy Probert

Well, just as a general statement, obviously, a change in activity is really important to moving pricing. But more importantly, it's the rate of that change, right? When things move very slowly, it gives everyone a chance to respond. When things move a little bit more quickly, then the overcapacity disappears quite quickly and pricing power returns back to the service sector. And we couple that, obviously with introductions of new technology, particularly into longer-term contracts which we, I think generally as an industry, probably have been a little loathe to do in the midst of a downturn are now starting to move those technologies into the market as we can get better value for them as activity recovery improves. But to -- specifically with respect to any particular overhang, I don't think that there are any particular markets where you could point to and sort of say, gosh, there's an enormous amount of overcapacity here or there. Most of the equipment in this industry tends to be relatively mobile given a quarter or so of time passing. So I think it's just general capacity in the system; no specific areas, Kurt, that I would point to.

Kurt Hallead - RBC Capital Markets, LLC

And then my follow-up would generally be that as you go down this path on increasing your presence internationally, and you stated at your Analyst Day what your commitments were obviously for deepwater and other international arenas, just curious as to how we could characterize Halliburton on the international market from a flagship product line or flagship service standpoint? Obviously, in the U.S., your flagship is frac. What do you see Halliburton's flagship being as you embark on this international plan over the next five-year period?

Timothy Probert

Well, clearly, the nature of the international markets are led by Drilling and Evaluation capabilities. As unconventionals become more important, then we'll see perhaps a little more balance in the international markets return. But for us, Drilling and Evaluation is the big driver for us in our Eastern Hemisphere and international markets. Couple that together with our completions expertise and as Mark was talking about a little bit earlier, that's one of the key areas of focus for us for our investment in the Eastern Hemisphere with a very strong position in completions, particularly deepwater completions and we intend to capitalize on that in 2011 and beyond.

Operator

Our final question comes from Waqar Syed with Macquarie.

Waqar Syed - Macquarie Research

Dave, could you quantify for us the number of rigs that may be working internationally today on these unconventional wells where the pressure pumping requirements may be similar to some of the -- in the 15,000- to 20,000-horsepower kind of range that you see in the Barnett and other places?

Timothy Probert

This is Tim, Waqar. I would say that generally speaking, there are very, very few dedicated fleets that sort of are in, the sort of 40,000-horsepower range. Fleets internationally tend to be much smaller, so what it tends to mean, generally speaking, to execute some of these unconventional plays, it’s typically a gathering of a couple of fleets together to execute. That's going to change and it's going to change quite quickly. But the historical norm and the situation particularly during the exploration phase has been not, to this point, to have a significant number of 40,000-plus horsepower spreads which are dedicated to that kind of activity.

Waqar Syed - Macquarie Research

But even at a smaller level, let's say, 20,000-horsepower which was kind of some of the early unconventional well requirements in the U.S., if we go to that level would you say, what, 10, 15 rigs would be working outside of North America right now in that kind of range?

Timothy Probert

I'm afraid I don't have a good number for you in terms of the number of dedicated rigs. Again, as I say, we're kind of in an exploration phase specifically with shale, so it's probably going to be somewhere less than a dozen, yes.

David Lesar

Let me just add one thing. That would not include what might be going on in Russia and China at this point in time, where I think there's less visibility into the number of rigs that may be working. I think that the number Tim alluded to, if you take a look at sort of the plays where we have a much better view of what the rig count is and where the rigs are working, I would say that's a good number. But we know that there is shale gas drilling going on in China today by the Chinese companies and I don't think anybody has got a handle on the number of rigs that may be doing that kind of work.

Timothy Probert

Yes, I think we should also specifically exclude CBM and tight gas applications. We're just talking about shales here.

Waqar Syed - Macquarie Research

And the wells that are being drilled currently, is the horsepower requirement there closer to the Haynesville-type wells or more like the Barnett?

David Lesar

No, there are still -- the wells that are being drilled today, as Tim said, are mainly the exploration kinds of wells and you don't have the long laterals on them yet. They're basically drilling either vertical wells or vertical with small laterals, so it really isn't taking a lot of horsepower to frac those things right now and usually it can get by with 10,000 to 12,000 horsepower.

Christian Garcia

So before we close, we'd like to announce that our Q1 2011 Earnings Call will be held on Monday, April 18th, at 9 a.m. Eastern, 8 a.m. Central. Sean, let's close it out.

Operator

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation in today's conference. This does conclude the conference. You may now disconnect. Everyone, have a wonderful day.

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