* Says ultra-deepwater rig market still challenging
* To maintain dividend policy well into 2016
* Shares down 4.5 pct
OSLO, Aug 27 Seadrill, the world's
biggest offshore driller by market capitalisation, reported
second-quarter earnings below forecasts on Wednesday and offered
a cautious outlook for the rig market, sending its shares lower.
Seadrill, the crown jewel in shipping tycoon John
Fredriksen's business empire, has been hit like other rig firms
by oil companies reining in spending to counter rising costs.
Seadrill's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and
amortisation (EBITDA) for the quarter came in at $641 million,
below forecasts of $663 million in a Reuters poll of analysts
and down from the $665 million it posted a year ago.
"The near-term market for ultra-deepwater drilling units
continues to be challenging, partly driven by a reduction in
exploration drilling that has led to a slower growth rate in
overall upstream spending," the company said in a statement.
Shares in Seadrill were among the worst performers on the
Oslo bourse. They were down 5.1 percent by 0753 GMT, lagging
behind a flat Oslo benchmark index.
The company intends to prioritise returning cash to
shareholders, it said, adding that it can maintain a quarterly
dividend of 1 dollar per share well into 2016, even if the rig
market fails to make a significant recovery.
Seadrill will also refrain from ordering new rigs until it
becomes easier to read the market, it said. Seadrill has 18 new
rigs yet to be delivered.
(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by David Goodman)