Results for the Company's drilling and E&P services operations were generally improved over the prior quarter and the first quarter of 2003. The Company's Western Hemisphere division improved sequentially, as the Pride South Atlantic semisubmersible, located in Brazil, commenced operations under a new contract in January. The rig was idle during the fourth quarter of 2003. Results for Mexico operations increased due to a full quarter's utilization of two jackups and a semisubmersible that commenced contracts with Petroleos Mexicanos S.A. during the previous quarter.
In the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, results for the quarter were level with the fourth quarter of 2003.
Segment profit for the Eastern Hemisphere was essentially unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2003 and the prior year quarter.
Results from our Latin America Land and E&P Services divisions improved over the fourth quarter of 2003, primarily due to an increase in utilization and lower operating expenses. The operating land rig count in South America, currently 192 rigs, is the highest level in the Company's history. We increased rig count in Argentina and Venezuela, activating five rigs collectively during the first quarter of 2004.
As previously disclosed, the Company has encountered significant challenges in connection with the construction of four deepwater platform rigs on behalf of two customers. During the first quarter of 2004, the Company reported additional losses related to these construction projects of approximately $10.6 million, net of estimated taxes.
The construction losses recorded in the first quarter are principally attributable to additional provisions for the costs of settling certain commercial disputes and, to a lesser extent, higher commissioning costs and revised estimates for other cost items. The Company is continuing to evaluate the loss provisions at this time, and accordingly, the final amount of such provisions recorded in the first quarter could differ from the amounts included in these results. The three rigs still under construction are at an advanced stage of mechanical completion, with one rig scheduled to be completed and delivered from the shipyard in early May, and the other two rigs scheduled to be completed and delivered by mid-July 2004.
The Company has reorganized its segment reporting to conform to its new operating management structure. The operating divisions are now Eastern Hemisphere, Western Hemisphere, U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Latin America Land, E&P Services and Technical Services.
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