Strong demand for oil-exploration gear lifted Schlumberger's ( SLB) third-quarter 70% from a year ago, even as the company lost business due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The company earned $540.8 million, or 89 cents a share, in the quarter, up from $318.2 million, or 53 cents a share, a year ago. On an operating basis, the company earned 86 cents a share in the latest quarter, beating the Thompson First Call estimate by a penny. Sales rose about 4% from a year ago to $3.7 billion, ahead of the $3.61 billion consensus. Schlumberger said its latest quarter was reduced by $36 million, or 6 cents per share, by the hurricanes. Otherwise, it was a huge quarter for a company catering to a red-hot energy exploration market. "Third-quarter activity strengthened on a global basis as exploration and production activity continued to grow rapidly worldwide," it said. "The industry response to the current lack of an oil supply cushion and the long-term need to increase supplies of natural gas is underway but is still far from reaching a peak."