Noble Corp third quarter profit drops on rig downtime

Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:15pm EDT

(Reuters) - Noble Corp (NE.N), owner of the world's third-largest offshore drilling fleet, on Wednesday reported a quarterly profit that missed Wall Street views, hit by extended downtime that it said is not expected to recur in the current quarter.

Deployment of two new drillships, one off Brazil and the other in the Gulf of Mexico, was slower than expected, Noble said. Two other rigs in Brazil were hit by delays, and U.S. operations had to cope with the effects of Hurricane Isaac.

"With few exceptions, these matters have now been resolved, and we expect improved operational performance in the final quarter of 2012," Chief Executive David Williams said in a statement.

Overall, average rig utilization in the third quarter increased to 78 percent from 76 percent a year earlier.

Net profit fell to $115 million, or 45 cents per share, from $135 million, or 53 cents per share, a year ago. Analysts, on average, expected 49 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue grew 20 percent to $884 million.

Supporting executives' common refrain about rising rates for their best rigs, industry leader Transocean Ltd (RIG.N) revealed on Wednesday that its Sedco Express would move to Nigeria early next year to earn a rate $100,000 a day higher than the $500,000 it earned daily off Israel with Noble Energy Inc (NBL.N).

Also late on Wednesday, Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc (DO.N) said its Ocean Endeavor rig, which has been making $285,000 per day in Egypt, has an 18-month contract starting in December 2013 at $521,665 per day, including half the potential bonus.

Ensco Plc (ESV.N), owner of the second-largest offshore fleet, said in its fleet status report on Wednesday that it sold two older rigs. The Pride Hawaii sold for $19 million, compared with its $17 million book value, while the Ensco I barge rig fetched $4.5 million, versus a $12.3 million book value.

Efforts to sell off less-capable assets are also under way at both Transocean and Noble Corp.

Prior to the Noble Corp results, its shares closed 0.3 percent lower. The stock is up 9 percent in the past three months, similar to Diamond, which reports results on Thursday. Transocean's shares are up just 2 percent in the period, while Ensco (ESV.N) has gained 18 percent.

(Reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco; Editing by Andre Grenon, Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler)

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