U.S. oilfield services firm Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. expects activity to continue to improve through at least the first quarter of 2021, CEO Andy Hendricks told investors on Oct. 22 during an earnings call.

The company, which offers contract drilling and hydraulic fracturing services in North America, expects to average 61 rigs in the current quarter, up from 60 in the third quarter. It expects to average six hydraulic fracturing fleets in the fourth quarter, versus five in the last quarter, Hendricks said.

Patterson, which posted a $112 million net loss for the third quarter, expects "profitability will be at or near an inflection point" in the current quarter, and grow early next year if prices remain near current levels.

U.S. crude futures were trading below $41/bbl the morning of Oct. 22. Though up from sharply lower levels earlier this year when pandemic-related lockdowns and an unexpected price war crushed futures values, they have languished around $40 a barrel for several months.

Shares were up 3.8% to $2.71 each in early trading. The company beat analysts' expectations, posting a loss of 60 cents per share in the third quarter, versus expectations of 62-cent loss, according to Refinitiv IBES.

"We were able to increase activity and gain market share in what was essentially a flat rig market during the third quarter," Hendricks said on the call.