(Adds comments from press release, details on charge)
By Shariq Khan
Oct 18 (Reuters) - Schlumberger NV beat Wall Street estimates for profit on Friday, in the first quarter under Olivier Le Peuch, as higher international drilling activity boosted demand for its equipment and services and helped counter weakness in North America.
The international business has been a bright spot for the world's largest oilfield services provider since last year as investor pressure to improve returns has forced North American oil and gas producers to rein in drilling new wells in a volatile price environment.
Le Peuch, who took charge in July, has outlined plans to accelerate digital investments, restructure his predecessor Paal Kibsgaard's major initiatives and resize the company's North American onshore operations.
As part of the strategy, the company recorded a goodwill impairment charge of $12.7 billion in the third quarter, largely related to its purchase of Smith International Inc and Cameron International Corp.
The charge also included $1.58 billion linked to the company's pressure pumping business in North America.
"That's a sizable write-down from pressure pumping business. That just tells you the state of the North American onshore market being pretty poor," said Anish Kapadia, founder of London-based oil and gas consultancy firm AKap Energy.
North America rig count stood at 1,002 as of Oct. 11, 256 fewer than a year earlier.
Globally traded Brent crude prices have fallen about 18% in the third-quarter to average $62.03 per barrel, amid trade tensions and oversupply from U.S. shale fields.
Schlumberger, whose results often set the tone for the industry, said revenue from its international business rose 8% to $5.63 billion in the third quarter, while revenue from North America fell 11% to $2.85 billion.
The company reported a net loss of $11.38 billion, compared with a profit of $644 million a year earlier, hit by the charge.
Excluding the charge and other items, the company earned 43 cents per share, beating estimates of 40 cents, according Refinitiv IBES data.
Total revenue was largely unchanged at $8.54 billion, but beat expectation of $8.50 billion.
Shares of the Houston, Texas-based company rose 1.1% to $32.35 before the bell. (Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)