(Adds detail, share price)
OSLO Nov 25 Seadrill, the world's
biggest offshore driller by market capitalisation, announced a
higher-than-expected quarterly dividend, predicting a slowdown
in spending by oil firms that held back third-quarter earnings
would be temporary.
Seadrill, the crown jewel in shipping tycoon John
Fredriksen's business empire, said on Monday its third-quarter
operating profit rose 14 percent to $471 million, missing
forecasts for $507 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.
With oil firms delaying investment to save cash, rig firms
have also felt the industry's pain and their rates have
flattened or fallen over the past three months.
Still, the company raised its quarterly dividend by four
cents to 0.95 dollars per share, against analyst expectations
for 0.91 dollars, and said the fundamental outlook for the
offshore drilling industry remained firm.
"The pace of contract additions has undoubtedly slowed from
the pace seen in 2012 as customers re-evaluate spending plans.
The board is confident ... that this is a momentary pause before
oil companies restart their spending," Seadrill said.
"Any meaningful reduction in capex by oil companies in the
years to come will reduce production and likely lead to
significantly higher oil prices," it added.
Deepwater firms such as Seadrill have been mostly immune
from the slowdown until recently, but top rival Transocean
last week said that 39 deepwater units would be off
contract across the industry in 2014, an unusually high number,
indicating a near-term slowdown.
Shares in Seadrill, worth $21.2 billion based on current
market prices, rose 1.8 percent on the Oslo bourse,
outperforming a 0.6 percent rise in the benchmark index.
The company's market value is up by 25 percent over the past
12 months, beating a 3 percent rise in the European oil and gas
(Reporting by Terje Solsvik, Editing by Nerijus Adomaitis and