Oct 20(Reuters) - Schlumberger Ltd, the world's No.1 oilfield services provider, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and said it expected improved activity in onshore North American, Middle Eastern and Russian markets next year.
However, the company said it had limited visibility into its customers' investment plans for 2017.
An oil price downturn that started mid-2014 prompted oil producers to slash spending, eroding demand for services provided by Schlumberger and its competitors.
Schlumberger responded by laying off thousands of employees and sharply cutting costs.
The company's pro forma revenue had slumped more than 50 percent in the previous seven quarters, Chief Executive Paal Kibsgaard said on Thursday, adding that the company had cut $6 billion of costs over the period.
But things appear to be turning around.
Global crude oil supply and demand were "now more or less balanced," he said.
Net profit attributable to Schlumberger fell to $176 million, or $13 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 from $989 million, or 78 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding charges related to Cameron merger and integration, Schlumberger earned 25 cents per share, above the analysts' average estimate of 22 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell 17 percent to $7.02 billion, shy of analysts' estimate of 7.08 billion.
(Reporting by Swetha Gopinath and Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)
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