* Q2 EBITDA $493 mln vs $471 mln avg poll forecast
* Says eying investments as sector consolidation expected
* Analyst says Seadrill to benefit from modern fleet
* Seadrill shares down 1.1 pct vs 1.3 pct drop of benchmark
(Adds analyst comments)
By Walter Gibbs and Richard Solem
OSLO, Aug 31 Norway's Seadrill Ltd (SDRL.OL),
the world's number two deepwater oil rig group, is ready to
throw its weight around now that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill
has made life harder for smaller players.
"We see the current market volatility as a good opportunity
to look for investment opportunities," the group controlled by
shipping tycoon John Fredriksen said on Tuesday while reporting
forecast-beating quarterly results.
Seadrill said the world's worst offshore oil spill from
British oil major BP's (BP.L) Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico
increased the emphasis on operational experience, making it more
challenging for new rig operators.
"The board is of the opinion that this could open up for
further consolidation of the ultra-deepwater rig market,"
The offshore oil drilling sector has long been seen as ripe
for takeovers, and conditions created by the oil spill should
Most drillers smaller than the U.S. "big three" --
Transocean Ltd RIGN.VX (RIG.N), Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc
(DO.N) and Noble Corp (NE.N) -- could be targets, investment
bankers say. [ID:nN30218160]
Ingolf Gillesdal, an analyst at Nordea Markets, said
Seadrill is better suited than most to weather the market
setback from April's deepwater blowout in the Gulf.
"They should be better positioned now within the segment
than before the spill because of their newer equipment and
size," he said.
"They have an average fleet age of four to five years,
versus 18 to 20 years by the competition," said Gillesdal,
referring to competitors such as Transocean and Pride.
Seadrill said third-quarter results would likely show good
growth after a bigger-than-expected rise in second-quarter
earnings. Its third-quarter performance will be enhanced by four
new rigs entering service and by a high fleet utilisation rate.
"All our deepwater floaters have secured employment
throughout 2011, something that insulates us against any
near-term volatility in this market segment," it said.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and
amortisation (EBITDA) in the three months to the end of June
rose to $493 million from $438 million a year earlier, beating
the $471 million average estimate in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Its shares fell 1.1 percent to 145.3 crowns by 1033 GMT,
while Oslo's benchmark index .OSEBX fell 1.3 percent.
One trader said the quarter was somewhat flattered by the
inclusion of one full month of results from acquired company
Scorpion Offshore, but earnings were still better than expected.
Shares also fell in anticipation of Seadrill's weighting in
the OSEFX mutual fund index .OSEFX being cut in a quarterly
rebalancing at Tuesday's close, the trader said.
(Editing by Sharon Lindores and Michael Shields)