April 19 (Reuters) - Top oilfield services firm SLB on Friday reported a higher quarterly profit, as strong international oil and gas drilling demand helped offset a slowdown in North America activity.

Companies such as SLB have gained from a rise in demand in international and offshore exploration and production, especially in the Middle East and Asia, as oil and gas producers look to secure new inventories.

International rig count, an indicator of future production, stood at 965 on average at the end of the first quarter, 5.4% higher than the previous year, according to Baker Hughes data.

Revenue from SLB's international segment rose by 18% to $7.06 billion, compared with $5.99 billion in the year-ago quarter.

"During the quarter, we continued to benefit from our favorable exposure to the international markets, with remarkable year-on-year growth of 29% in the Middle East & Asia, in addition to growth of 18% in Europe & Africa," SLB CEO Olivier Le Peuch said in a statement.

The Houston, Texas-based company reported earnings of $1.07 billion, or 74 cents per share, for the quarter ended March 31, compared with $934 million, or 65 cents per share, last year.

(Reporting by Sourasis Bose in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)