Oilfield service company Halliburton Co's quarterly profit topped Wall Street forecasts as a surge in its North American business overshadowed a hit to its Libyan operations.

Halliburton's oil company customers have increased spending on new projects to take advantage of high oil prices, which surged above $100 per barrel in late February and have remained strong due to turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa and fears about the global economic recovery.

The unrest in Libya prompted the United Nations to impose economic sanctions on the country, forcing Halliburton and other energy companies to pull out, and Halliburton said it took a $46 million charge in the quarter.

That charge was expected by analysts, but the more than three-fold jump in profit from the North American business surprised the market.

North America was even better than we thought, said Roger Read, an analyst with Morgan Keegan & Co. International was probably as bad or worse than they thought it would be.

Most energy watchers have said they expect the oilfield services markets to grow tighter in the second half of this year, as work on planned projects absorbs much of the available capacity.

That sentiment was confirmed by Halliburton, which is more heavily exposed to North American markets than its key competitors, Schlumberger Ltd and Baker Hughes Inc

Going forward, I feel even more confident about the prospects of our North America business in 2011 and beyond, Chief Executive Dave Lesar told a conference call. We believe there is upside for both revenue and margins.


Halliburton's net profit rose to $511 million, or 56 cents per share, from $206 million, or 23 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding the charge from its operations in Libya, the company earned 61 cents per share, topping the 58 cents per share that analysts had forecast on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose to $5.3 billion, also better than analysts' forecasts for $4.89 billion.

Operating profit at its North American operations jumped to $732 million from $230 million a year earlier. Latin America also rose to $76 million, from $46 million, although profits fell in the rest of the world.

Schlumberger Ltd will post its results on Thursday along with Weatherford International Ltd , while Baker Hughes reports on April 27.

Halliburton shares slipped 0.1 percent to $46.75 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, pressured by the weakness in crude oil prices on Monday.

The shares were outperforming the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service index <.OSX>, which was down 2 percent.

(editing by Maureen Bavdek)