By Braden Reddall
July 18 Quarterly profits tripled at Noble Corp
, the owner of the world's third-largest offshore drilling
fleet, as costly downtime decreased and revenue grew with the
debut of new rigs in Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico.
Work off the U.S. Gulf Coast has led to new deals for some
of Noble's competitors too. On Wednesday, Transocean
said it landed a $595,000-per-day contract for one of its
ultra-deepwater rigs there, while Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc
said it struck a deal for a deepwater unit under
Activity has been ramping up for a month in the Gulf of
Mexico, which will be busier this year than at any other point
since the Deepwater Horizon spill more than two years ago.
Chief Executive David Williams credited Noble's strong
performance last quarter to both the new rigs and a reduction in
unpaid downtime across the fleet. Average rig utilization in the
quarter improved to 76 percent from 70 percent a year before.
"Despite economic uncertainty and the corresponding pressure
on commodity prices during the second quarter, we remain
confident in the long-term outlook for our business," Williams
said. "Our backlog continues to expand and we are benefiting
from growing visibility into the latter part of this decade."
Noble said its second-quarter net profit surged to $160
million, or 63 cents per share, from $54 million, or 21 cents
per share, a year ago. Revenue grew 43 percent to $899 million.
Excluding one-time items, the Switzerland-based company
earned 59 cents per share, compared with the average of 57 cents
expected by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Prior to the results, Noble shares rose 2.6 percent. They
are up 17 percent so far in 2012, similar to Diamond.
Transocean's shares have risen 22 percent and Ensco's
have gained 6 percent. Diamond reports earnings on Thursday,
Ensco a week after that, while Transocean is due in early
Transocean said in its fleet status report on Wednesday the
Deepwater Deep Seas was hired by Murphy Oil at $595,000
per day starting next March, in another sign of strong deepwater
demand when compared with its previous $450,000 rate. Off
Africa, the Transocean Marianas got 280 days of work at a
$530,000 day rate, up from $450,000 before, starting in
Transocean is certifying well control equipment across its
fleet, and has done so for 36 of its 63 active floating rigs. It
named two more midwater rigs to be pulled out for certification
this year, while in 2013 it would do so for two ultra-deepwater
units, three deepwater rigs, and seven in the midwater class.
Diamond said that its Ocean Onyx, a rig under construction
in Texas, would start a one-year contract with Apache in
the third quarter of 2013 at a $490,000 day rate -- strong when
its 6,000-feet water-depth rating is compared with the
10,000-feet capability of the ultra-deepwater rigs.