April 29 (Reuters) - Ensco Plc, owner of the world's second-largest offshore drilling fleet, reported a larger-than-expected 20 percent rise in quarterly profit, helped by the deployment of new rigs over the past year.
While rig utilization across its fleet decreased by three percentage points over the past year to 86 percent in the first quarter, the average rate paid for the London-based company's rigs climbed by 15 percent.
Net profit rose to $317 million, or $1.36 per share, from $265 million, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier. Analysts, on average, had expected $1.29 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue grew 13 percent to $1.15 billion.
The growth was driven by the higher dayrates and the addition of rigs to the fleet. Chief Executive Dan Rabun highlighted the deployment of a new rig for Anadarko in the Gulf of Mexico and the start-up of another going to work for BP off Angola.
"In both cases, these ultra-deepwater assets started multi-year programs for repeat customers reinforcing the advantages that fleet standardization provides for us and our customers," Rabun said in a statement.
Growing demand for deepwater rigs also gave a lift to the quarterly results of rivals Noble Corp and Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. Sector leader Transocean Ltd is due to report results next week.