UPDATE 3-Rowan Cos Q2 beats Street on land rig utilization

Tue Aug 3, 2010 3:31pm EDT

* Q2 EPS $0.79 vs est $0.68

* Q2 rev up 2 pct, beats Street

* Continues to see good demand for jackups * Shares up 4 pct (Adds analysts' comments; updates share movement)

By Thyagaraju Adinarayan

BANGALORE, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Contract driller Rowan Cos Inc (RDC.N) reported a quarterly profit that beat analysts' estimates, backed by strong land rig utilization, and said clients were shifting capital budget to onshore projects.

The shifting of focus to land drilling in the wake of the BP (BP.L) oil spill has seen land drillers posting strong results in the quarter and are expected to lead to more contracts for construction of rigs.

Along with the current surge in its land drilling, the company also continues to see good demand for its high-end jackup rigs.

The company, which has 32 land rigs, said land-rig utilization in the second quarter was 78 percent, up from 60 percent last year. Offshore rig utilization fell marginally to 75 percent.

"I think they will probably have a good third and fourth quarter, their land rig business will be good, and the jackup business is expected to get stronger," Jefferies & Co analyst Judson Bailey said.

Shares of the company rose 4 percent to $27.06 Tuesday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange. They have fallen about 18 percent since the Macondo well blew out in April.

Rowan said it would pursue the construction of new land rigs against term contracts, rather than opening up their fleet to the spot market.

The company, which had earlier outlined plans to spin off its land drilling unit, said it would explore that option when the "opportunity presents itself."

"We do believe at some point it will make sense to use the land rig fleet as a source of capital for further expansion in to the offshore side of the business," Chief Executive Matt Ralls said on a conference call.

While regulations at the Gulf of Mexico are delaying work on new rigs, Rowan expects its two jack-up rigs -- so called because they stand on legs on the seabed -- awaiting permits to return to work in a couple of weeks.

Rowan with high-end jackups is "well-positioned" in the U.S. Gulf in a regulatory standpoint, said Bailey, a top-rated Energy Equipment & Services analyst, according to Starmine data.

The company said it is "very close" to getting its XL-III rig committed with McMoRan Exploration MMR.N in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig's delivery is expected in March 2011.

"We expect a continued bifurcation in the offshore drilling market, with high-end units significantly better positioned than older ones within an environment of tighter regulation and oversight," said Dahlman Rose and Co analysts.

Rowan reported net income of $90.9 million, or 79 cents a share, on revenue of $490.1 million for the second quarter. [ID:nASA00LL3] (Reporting by Thyagaraju Adinarayan in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian and Maju Samuel)