Standard & Poor's Equity Research has maintained a Hold recommendation shares of Nabors Industries Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda (NYSE: NBR).

S&P analyst Michael Kay says first quarter earnings per share, before special items, of $0.65 versus $0.81 beats S&P’s estimate by $0.09 on cost controls and higher results in U.S. offshore and Alaska. Nabors averaged 193 U.S. land drilling rigs in the first quarter and now has 137 rigs employed, a 40% utilization rate.

On lower utilization, weak fundamentals in Canada, and a lower well-servicing outlook, S&P cut its 2009 earnings-per-share estimate by $0.18 to $1.54, and reduced 2010’s by $0.55 to $1.45 on the firm’s expectation of an extended downturn in drilling. On multiple expansion and its view that Nabors is better positioned than peers, S&P lifted its target price by $5 to $16.

The Nabors companies operate a fleet of approximately 525 land drilling and approximately 700 land workover and well-servicing rigs in North America.