UPDATE 1-Ensco sees more U.S. Gulf demand than it can handle

Thu Nov 1, 2012 2:28pm EDT

Nov 1 (Reuters) - Ensco Plc, owner of the world's second-largest offshore drilling fleet, said there are more opportunities for its newly built deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico than it could handle.

The company's 8500 series of seven semisubmersible rigs, a $3 billion building program that started back in 2005, was finally completed with the delivery of the 8506 in July. That rig will start working for Anadarko Petroleum Corp next month in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anadarko has two other Ensco 8500 rigs under contract in the U.S. Gulf, and three others are there with other operators. The seventh is under contract with Total in Brunei, currently sublet to Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

Even if all these new units could work elsewhere, Ensco said, having a number of the same rig type in the same area offered economies of scale in terms of logistics and spare parts.

"We've actually got today more opportunities for these rigs in the Gulf of Mexico than we have rigs," Kevin Robert, Ensco's senior vice president for rig marketing, told analysts on a conference call on Thursday. "So even though we've had opportunities outside the Gulf of Mexico, it hasn't made sense."

Late on Wednesday, Ensco reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by strengthening deepwater demand and additions to its fleet of 8504 and 8505 this year.

Its adjusted third-quarter profit was $1.53 per share, compared with an average analyst estimate of $1.30 per share according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Ensco shares rose 3 percent on Thursday to $59.62.

Revenue grew 23 percent to $1.12 billion. Ensco said it expected revenue to be about the same in the fourth quarter.

Sector leader Transocean Ltd, which reports results early next week and also has a large Gulf of Mexico deepwater presence, saw its shares rise 0.8 percent on Thursday.

Rivals Noble Corp and Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc both forecast steadily rising demand for deepwater rigs when they reported results two weeks ago.

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