Nov 6 (Reuters) - Halliburton Co on Wednesday increased its dividend by 20 percent as the oilfield services company laid out plans to boost North American profit margins by 2 percentage points next year through cost reductions alone.
Halliburton shares jumped 2 percent after the dividend announcement at a meeting between company executives and analysts. Pricing in the North American oilfield market remains competitive due to spare service capacity, as a natural gas production glut forced operators to scale back plans, the executives said.
But they said Halliburton, the regional market leader, has invested in efficiency improvements and plans to raise margins in the region by 2 percentage points over the course of 2014 from 17.8 percent last quarter, part of a 5 point increase over three years.
Any improvements to margins from higher pricing or rising rig counts in North America would come on top of that rise, Chief Executive Dave Lesar explained.
"The five points is just going to come from the efforts we outlined today," he said, calling the push a "multiple-year pay-off" for the business. "We have some 30,000 employees in North America - this is not a trivial exercise."
Halliburton said it would raise the dividend to 15 cents per share for the fourth quarter. The ensuing 2 percent rise in the company's stock price came on top of a 5 percent rise in the two weeks ahead of the analyst meeting.
The increased payout is part of the company's ultimate goal of returning 35 percent of its operating cash flow to shareholders, Chief Financial Officer Mark McCollum said.
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