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UPDATE 2-Liberty Oilfield reports smaller-than-expected loss, sees frac fleet growth

(Recasts lead, compares with estimates, adds background)

Oct 27 (Reuters) - Liberty Oilfield Services reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss on Tuesday and forecast sequential growth in active frac fleets, as producers restore oil volumes, driven by an uptick in prices.

Frac fleets refer to equipment, labor, vehicles and materials needed for hydraulic fracturing.

Oil producers have been drilling fewer wells following a collapse in crude oil prices this year, forcing companies that supply rigs and other tools to the U.S. oil industry to cut thousand of jobs and trim salaries.

Oil prices have recouped some of their losses from historic spring lows, but fresh lockdowns due to a resurgence in COVID-19 infections in several economies are threatening that recovery.

However, Liberty, which in September agreed to buy Schlumberger’s shale fracking business, said it expects fourth quarter average active fleets, excluding the acquisition, to rise over 20% sequentially.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to bring uncertainty in global oil demand in the months ahead, incremental monthly improvement in completions activity from a low point in May is a welcome sign of progress,” Liberty said.

U.S. energy firms last week added oil and natural gas rigs for a sixth week in a row for the first time since June 2018, with the industry expecting greater momentum as crude prices steady around $40 a barrel.

The downturn has hit peers Schlumberger NV and Halliburton Co as well, with both reporting quarterly losses.

Denver-based Liberty’s net loss attributable to shareholders stood at $34.5 million, or 41 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with a profit of $11 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue slumped over 71% to $147.5 million.

On an adjusted basis, the company lost 31 cents per share. Analysts had expected a loss of 45 cents per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data. (Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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