By Houston Business Journal

Increased drilling activity helped Baker Hughes Inc. to nearly quadruple net income for the fourth quarter, pushing its shares to a new 52-week high.

The Houston-based oilfield services company on Tuesday reported net income of $335 million, or 77 cents per share, up from $84 million, or 27 cents per share, earned in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Revenue in the fourth quarter 2010 was $4.4 billion, up 82 percent from the $2.4 billion recorded in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI) to have net earnings per share of 65 cents.

⿿In North America, margins increased almost 500 basis points sequentially reflecting the ongoing strength of customer spending in unconventional oil and gas plays and price realization,⿝ Chad Deaton, chairman and CEO, said in a statement. ⿿Looking ahead, we expect the economic recovery to continue resulting in increased oil demand and support for higher oil prices and a sustained multi-year expansion of international spending. However, at the current pace, we do not expect meaningful price leverage in our international markets until late 2011.⿝

For the year, net income was $812 million, or $2.06 per share, compared with $421 million, or $1.36 per share, in 2009.

Year-end revenue was $14.4 billion, up 49 percent from revenue of $9.7 billion in 2009.

Click here to read the company's 4Q earnings press release.

Baker Hughes shares reached the new high of $62.50 earlier Tuesday before closing at $62.32 per share, up $3.82 or 6.5 percent.

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