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Workers tap deep into North Dakota's Bakken formation, on a Precision Drilling rig.

Nathan VanderKlippe/nathan vanderklippe The Globe and Mail

Increased activity in the United States helped oilfield services company Precision Drilling Corp. sharply improve first-quarter earnings, the Calgary-based contract driller said Thursday.

Precision, which also provides coiled tubing services, rental equipment and wastewater treatment units among other services, said net earnings in the thee months ended March 31 were $111-million or 39 cents per diluted share.

That compared with $66-million or 23 cents in the first three months of 2011.

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Revenue in the three months ended March 31 was $640-million, up from $525-million.

"Higher day rates in both the Canadian and U.S. markets and increased drilling activity in the United States in the first quarter of 2012 over the same period of 2011 led to the 22 per cent increase in revenue and 32 per cent increase in EBITDA, the company said in a release.

EBITDA, or earnings before income taxes, depreciation and amortization, were $246-million for the quarter compared to $186-million for the first quarter of 2011.

"Despite a significant decline in dry gas drilling activity, drilling rigs performing horizontal drilling for oil and gas liquids and the related services provided by Precision remain in demand," president and CEO Kevin Neveu said.

"Compared to the first quarter of 2011, all of Precision's drilling and service lines operating in Canada and the United States contributed both increased revenue and improved operating margins."

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