Noble Reports Second Quarter 2004 Results

Noble Corporation (NYSE: NE) reported net income for the second quarter of 2004 of $34.4 million, or $0.26 per diluted share, on operating revenues of $253.0 million, compared to net income of $43.7 million, or $0.33 per diluted share, on operating revenues of $247.9 million for the second quarter of 2003. Net income for the six months ended June 30, 2004 was $62.6 million, or $0.47 per diluted share, on operating revenues of $498.4 million, compared to net income of $83.2 million, or $0.63 per diluted share, on operating revenues of $492.9 million for the six months ended June 30, 2003.

At June 30, 2004, the Company's consolidated balance sheet reflected $2.24 billion in shareholders' equity, $209.7 million in cash and marketable debt securities, and $559.5 million in total debt. Net cash provided by operating activities for the six months ended June 30, 2004 was $126.8 million. During the second quarter of 2004, the Company repurchased 1,087,000 of its ordinary shares for $39,714,000, or an average price of $36.54 per share.

As previously announced, in June 2004 the Company acquired the Okhi (renamed the Noble Mark Burns), a 300 feet Levingston 111-S designed independent leg jackup unit, for $29,500,000 in cash. The Company is mobilizing the unit to Dalian New Shipyard in Dalian, China, where it plans to perform certain refurbishment and upgrade work. The Company is marketing the unit for operation in the Middle East, India and South East Asia. The unit is currently equipped to operate in 230 feet of water. As previously announced, on July 16, 2004 the Company exercised its option to purchase the premium jackup drilling unit, the Maersk Viking (renamed the Noble Cees van Diemen), for an exercise price of $32.9 million. In June 2003, Noble paid an option fee of $15.0 million to the seller for the right to acquire the unit. The Company's aggregate purchase price for the MODEC 300C, independent leg, cantilever jackup is therefore $47.9 million. The Noble Cees van Diemen is currently in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates being assimilated into our Middle East operations. The unit is scheduled to commence an 880-day contract in Qatar in September 2004 after an upgrade program.

James C. Day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, "We are pleased with our most recent acquisitions, which are consistent with the Company's long-term strategy of not only expanding its fleet of premium drilling units, but also achieving the highest return on capital employed of the offshore drilling companies. Our management team has consistently shown over a protracted period that shareholder value can be increased if one follows a disciplined investment philosophy."

Net income for the second quarter of 2004 increased 22 percent from the first quarter of 2004 as utilization continued to improve in West Africa. By the end of the second quarter, four of the Company's six jackups in Nigeria were operating under long-term contracts. The Company is actively pursuing opportunities for the remaining two jackups.

Compared to the second quarter of 2003, results for the second quarter of 2004 were impacted by lower utilization in the North Sea and the shipyard project for the Noble Roger Eason drillship described below. These items were partially offset by continued strong performance in the Middle East and Mexico. Utilization in the North Sea decreased to 81 percent in the second quarter of 2004 from 95 percent in the second quarter of 2003. In addition, the average dayrate in this region decreased nearly $10,000, from $60,150 in the second quarter of 2003 to $50,247 in the recent quarter. Market conditions began to improve by the end of the second quarter of 2004 as the Noble Julie Robertson premium jackup returned to operations on June 1 after being stacked April 21, 2004. In addition, the Noble Lynda Bossler premium jackup commenced a contract on July 12 after being stacked May 9, 2004. In Brazil, the Company's Noble Roger Eason drillship is in the shipyard undergoing planned maintenance and upgrades, with completion scheduled in the third quarter of 2004.

The Company's Middle East operating division, which includes India and the Mediterranean Sea, experienced an increase of 316 operating days from the second quarter of 2003. The increase in operating days was primarily due to the acquisition of the Noble Gene House and Noble Charlie Yester premium jackups in July 2003 and September 2003, respectively, and the mobilization of the Noble Carl Norberg premium jackup to the Mediterranean Sea from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in December 2003. In Mexico, the Company experienced an increase of 91 operating days from the second quarter of 2003 due to the mobilization of the Noble Bill Jennings from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in August 2003. Since September 2002, the Company has mobilized a total of seven jackups from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to Mexico for long-term contracts with Petroleos Mexicanos.

Offshore contract drilling services revenues from deepwater drilling units (capable of drilling in 4,000 feet or greater) accounted for approximately 32 percent and 34 percent of the Company's total contract drilling services revenues for the second quarter of 2004 and 2003, respectively. The Company currently operates six deepwater semisubmersibles in the Gulf of Mexico and one deepwater semisubmersible and three deepwater drillships offshore Brazil. Another deepwater semisubmersible, the Noble Homer Ferrington, is in the shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi undergoing upgrades and refurbishments in preparation for a long-term contract in Nigeria. We expect this contract will commence during the fourth quarter of 2004. Contract drilling services revenues from international sources accounted for approximately 74 percent and 73 percent of the Company's total contract drilling services revenues for the second quarter of 2004 and 2003, respectively.

The average dayrate for the Company's international jackup rigs was $50,277 in the second quarter of 2004, compared to $52,286 in the second quarter of 2003. Utilization on these rigs was 85 percent in the second quarter of both 2004 and 2003. The average dayrate on the Company's deepwater assets in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico capable of drilling in 6,000 feet or greater decreased 30 percent to $96,727 in the second quarter of 2004 as compared to the second quarter of 2003, while utilization increased to 99 percent from 71 percent. The average dayrate on the Company's domestic jackup rigs was $45,817 in the second quarter of 2004, 64 percent higher than the same quarter of 2003. Utilization on these units in the second quarter of 2004 was 94 percent as compared to 97 percent in the second quarter of 2003. The Company also had 183 fewer operating days for domestic jackup rigs during the second quarter of 2004 as compared to the same quarter of 2003 following the mobilization of the Noble Bill Jennings to Mexico and the Noble Carl Norberg to the Mediterranean Sea in 2003.

The increase in the Company's operating expenses in the second quarter of 2004 as compared to the same quarter in 2003 was attributable primarily to the addition of three operating rigs since the second quarter of 2003. The Noble Charlie Yester commenced a three-year contract in India at the end of 2003. The Noble Gene House is currently operating in the Middle East. The Company also activated the Noble Therald Martin semisubmersible in November 2003, and the unit is scheduled to commence a contract in August 2004.

Day said, "While we are generally more encouraged about the improvement in several markets, it is still too early to conclude we have turned the corner in terms of a clear worldwide acceleration in activity. However, I would assume the market would begin to accelerate before year end."
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