USA: Noble Corporation Earns USD 120 million in 1Q 2012

USA: Noble Corporation Earns USD 120 million in 1Q 2012

Noble Corporation today reported first quarter 2012 earnings of $120 million, or $0.47 per diluted share, versus $127 million, or $0.50 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2011. Earnings for the first quarter of 2011 were $54 million, or $0.21 per diluted share. Contract drilling services revenues for the first quarter of 2012 were $746 million versus $720 million for the fourth quarter of 2011 and $543 million in the first quarter of 2011.

David W. Williams, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Noble Corporation, stated, “Our performance in early 2012 includes a number of noteworthy achievements that are expected to position the Company for improving financial results over the course of 2012 and beyond.

“Relating to our fleet transformation program, the ultra-deepwater drillships Noble Bully I and Noble Bully II commenced their initial contracts in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Brazil, respectively, while the ultra-deepwater drillship Noble Globetrotter I arrived in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and is currently completing the client acceptance and commissioning process before beginning its 10-year contract, expected in late April 2012.

“Also, available days in 2012 on our ultra-deepwater semisubmersible Noble Jim Day were significantly reduced following a series of contract awards at sequentially higher dayrates. In addition, contracts were awarded for the deepwater semisubmersibles Noble Homer Ferrington, Noble Max Smith, and Noble Amos Runner. These contract awards, which reflect significant dayrate improvement, are evidence of the strong fundamental environment that is driving client demand for deepwater rigs.

“Finally, we successfully completed a $1.2 billion issuance of five, ten and 30 year notes at an average annual coupon of 4.1%, providing the Company with a solid base of liquidity to support our fleet transformation efforts.”

Debt as a percentage of total capitalization increased slightly to approximately 35% at March 31, 2012, from 33% at December 31, 2011. Capital expenditures in the first quarter of 2012 totaled $368 million, including $133 million (excluding capitalized interest) related to Noble’s fleet transformation program. The Company continues to expect capital expenditures for 2012 to total an estimated $1.9 billion, including approximately $650 million for newbuild construction programs.

Operations Highlights

At the end of the first quarter of 2012, approximately 73% of the Company’s available rig operating days were committed for the remainder of 2012, including 77% of the floating rig fleet and 75% of the jackup fleet. For 2013, an estimated 51% of operating days are committed, including 74% of the floating rig days and 42% of jackup days. Total backlog at March 31, 2012 was approximately $14.5 billion, up from $13.7 billion at December 31, 2011.

Contract drilling services revenues totaled $746 million in the first quarter of 2012, up approximately 4% from revenues of $720 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. The improvement was due largely to reduced downtime, especially among the Company’s floating rigs operating offshore the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Brazil, as well as improved dayrates, mobilization fees and incentive bonuses. The revenue improvement was partially offset by lower fleet utilization, which totaled 74% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 79% in the fourth quarter of 2011. The lower utilization resulted primarily from several rigs completing planned shipyard maintenance and others transitioning between contracts.

In the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, deepwater drilling activity continued to increase, with many operators now moving forward with exploration, appraisal and development drilling programs slowed by the pace of drilling permits in 2010 and 2011. The increase in activity has led to a shortage of available floating rigs, leading to improving dayrates. The Company recently contracted the conventionally moored, deepwater semisubmersible Noble Amos Runner at a dayrate of $460,000, up from a previous dayrate of $360,000. The rig is now committed into late 2013. Availability in 2012 for the ultra-deepwater semisubmersible Noble Jim Day has been reduced to approximately 120 days following the award of a series of short-term drilling assignments, the latest at a dayrate of $605,000.

In Mexico, utilization of the Company’s 12 jackup rigs declined to 64% in the first quarter of 2012 from 84% in the fourth quarter of 2011 due primarily to idle time on the Noble Bill Jennings and Noble Sam Noble, which entered shipyards to complete required maintenance and inspections before commencing new contracts, and the Noble Leonard Jones, which sustained damage while under tow to a new location. At present, 10 of the Company’s jackups are under contract, while opportunities are under review to return the remaining two units to work.

Opportunities continue to develop in Brazil as some international operators execute plans to add deepwater rigs into the region. The deepwater semisubmersible Noble Max Smith was awarded a contract for up to three years that is expected to commence in December 2012, following a planned shipyard program and mobilization. The dayrate on the new contract is $407,000, plus a 15% bonus opportunity, up from $380,000 on the previous contract. We expect operators to mobilize additional rigs to Brazil in 2012 and beyond to explore the region’s vast hydrocarbon potential.

In the North Sea, the Company’s eight jackup rigs remain fully utilized, with some customers now focused on securing rig commitments into late 2013. The jackup rig Noble George Sauvageau was recently awarded a one-year contract at a dayrate of $140,000, up from $115,000 on the current contract and representing a market-leading dayrate for units with standard capabilities. The rig is now committed through 2013, bringing the total to five units with contract commitments into 2013. In addition, the Company’s semisubmersible Noble Ton van Langeveld was recently awarded a two-year contract at a dayrate of $275,000, increasing from $247,500 on its current contract. The rig is now under contract into late 2014.

The Company’s 15-rig jackup fleet operating in the Middle East experienced utilization of 75% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 87% in the fourth quarter of 2011, with 13 of the 15 units currently under contract. Three rigs, the Noble Gus Androes, Noble Chuck Syring and Noble Charles Copeland, entered shipyards during the quarter, while the Noble George McLeod was idle in the period. A total of 10 jackups are committed through 2012. Standard jackup rig needs continue to develop in Saudi Arabia, while other areas in the region display stable to modestly higher demand.

In closing, Williams stated, “A new, more modern and versatile fleet of mobile offshore drilling rigs is beginning to take shape at Noble as we deliver and place into service our ultra-deepwater drillships and high-specification jackups. These new, more efficient rigs will address a growing and more technically challenging list of client needs into the future, and once all 14 projects are delivered, will place Noble’s among the industry’s premium fleets. Given the solid industry fundamentals and building client demand that is providing greater long-term visibility, especially in the ultra-deepwater sector, we are fortunate to have uncontracted newbuild capacity to offer clients, with three drillships and six high-specification jackups currently available following delivery from the shipyards. Client interest in each of these units is noticeably greater today than six months ago, and we believe it is increasingly likely that a number of these units will secure contracts before the close of 2012. Our decision to expand our fleet with new state-of-the-art capabilities was well-timed, and we will continue to evaluate further growth opportunities that offer exceptional returns.”

Noble is a leading offshore drilling contractor for the oil and gas industry. Noble performs, through its subsidiaries, contract drilling services with a fleet of 79 offshore drilling units (including five ultra-deepwater rigs and six jackup drilling rigs currently under construction), located worldwide, including in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, Brazil, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, West Africa, the Middle East, India and the Asian Pacific.

Source: Noble Corporation, April 19, 2012


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