July 15, 2013 / 7:52 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Seadrill orders four new ultra-deepwater rigs

* Units cost less than $600 mln each

* Delivery expected in second half of 2015

* Seadrill says no need to raise equity capital or cut div (Adds detail)

OSLO, July 15 (Reuters) - Seadrill, the offshore drilling arm of shipping tycoon John Fredriksen’s business empire, will expand its fleet by four new ultra-deepwater drillships at a cost of less than $600 million per unit to meet strong demand from the oil industry.

The drillships will be built in South Korea, two at the Daewo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) yard and two at the Samsung yard.

The world’s largest offshore oil driller by market value has been on a spending spree to capitalise on a tight rig market, and the new vessels, designed to be used in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and West and East Africa, means its construction programme now totals 22 units.

High oil prices have driven strong demand for offshore drilling rigs by encouraging companies to search for hydrocarbon deposits in more difficult and remote areas.

“The board continues to be excited about the strong demand for drilling and the overall tightness in the supply-demand situation,” the Oslo-listed company said.ž

The new rigs are scheduled to be delivered during the second half of 2015 and the company has in addition received fixed-priced options for two further units for delivery in the first half 2016, it said.

The new builds will be financed through available cash and structured debt facilities and Seadrill sees no need for additional equity or reduction in dividends.

“Longer term, the additional drilling units are likely to increase Seadrill’s dividend capacity,” it said, adding that its order backlog stood at about $19 billion.

“Based on current discussions, we are confident that in the coming months we will add to this as our open 2014 capacity is likely to be fixed at attractive day-rate levels,” it said. (Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Terje Solsvik and David Holmes)

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