(Adds estimates, additional details on earnings and CEO comment)
Feb 6 (Reuters) - National Oilwell Varco beat estimates for its fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, as the oilfield services provider cut costs to counter an ongoing decline in North American drilling activity.
Lower crude prices and investor demand for higher returns have forced U.S. oil and gas companies to hold off on drilling, hurting earnings of companies that provide drilling and fracking services.
The company took charges of $537 million in impairment and restructuring in the quarter due to declines in U.S. drilling activity and its measures to cut costs.
Larger rivals Halliburton Co and Schlumberger NV have also undertaken cost-cutting efforts by laying off workforce and putting up assets for sale to boost earnings in a tough market.
"The fourth quarter saw continued improvements in international and offshore markets, partially offset by another sequential decline in spending by our customers in North America," CEO Clay Williams said in a statement.
Net attributable loss to the company was $385 million, or $1.01 per share for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $12 million, or 3 cents per share, a year earlier.
On an adjusted basis, National Oilwell Varco earned $1 per share, beating Refinitiv IBES analysts' estimates of $0.16. Its revenue fell 5% to $2.28 billion, but beat estimates of $2.11 billion.
The company's peer Patterson-UTI Energy Inc reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss earlier in the day. (Reporting by Arunima Kumar and Nishara Karuvalli Pathikkal in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Uttaresh.V)