Noble Reports Third Quarter 2004 Results

Noble Corporation (NYSE: NE) reported net income for the third quarter of 2004 of $30.6 million, or $0.23 per diluted share, on operating revenues of $265.6 million, compared to net income of $53.0 million, or $0.40 per diluted share, on operating revenues of $254.6 million for the third quarter of 2003. The Company's results for the third quarter of 2004 included a $5.8 million, or $0.04 per share, after-tax charge related to damage incurred on three of the Company's semisubmersibles in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as a result of Hurricane Ivan. Net income for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 was $93.2 million, or $0.70 per diluted share, on operating revenues of $764.1 million, compared to net income of $136.1 million, or $1.02 per diluted share, on operating revenues of $747.6 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2003.

At September 30, 2004, the Company's consolidated balance sheet reflected $2.3 billion in shareholders' equity, $179.4 million in cash and marketable debt securities, and $523.2 million in total debt. Net cash provided by operating activities for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 was $212.7 million. During the third quarter of 2004, the Company repaid $25 million principal amount on the outstanding balance of its $200 million bank credit facility. Following this repayment, the outstanding balance on the credit facility at September 30, 2004 was $100 million.

As previously announced, in June 2004 the Company acquired the Okhi (renamed the Noble Mark Burns), a Levingston 111-S designed independent leg jackup unit, for $29,500,000 in cash. The unit is currently in the Dalian New Shipyard in Dalian, China, where it is undergoing certain refurbishment and upgrade work. The Company plans to mobilize the unit to the Middle East during the fourth quarter of 2004, where additional upgrade work will include leg extension to 300 feet, a 60 foot cantilever, and quarters expansion for 160 personnel. As previously announced, in July 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. After undergoing a refurbishment and upgrade program, the unit commenced an 880-day contract in Qatar.

James C. Day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, "We are pleased to add these competitive units to our fleet during a period when drilling activity is improving."

Excluding the $5.8 million charge for damage incurred as a result of Hurricane Ivan, net income for the third quarter of 2004 increased 5.8 percent from the second quarter of 2004 as market conditions continued to improve in West Africa and the North Sea. By the end of the third quarter, five of the Company's six jackups in Nigeria were operating under long-term contracts. All of the Company's jackups are currently utilized as the Noble Don Walker commenced a 250-day contract in October. In addition, both utilization and average dayrates on the Company's North Sea units increased during the third quarter.

Compared to the third quarter of 2003, results for the third quarter of 2004 were principally impacted by lower utilization and average dayrates in the North Sea, the shipyard project for the Noble Roger Eason drillship described below, and the rig damage attributable to Hurricane Ivan. These items were partially offset by continued strong performance in the Middle East. Utilization in the North Sea decreased to 86 percent in the third quarter of 2004 from 98 percent in the third quarter of 2003. In addition, the average dayrate in this region decreased to $52,996 in the third quarter of 2004 from $60,304 in the third quarter of 2003. However, market conditions continued to improve during the third quarter of 2004 as the Noble Lynda Bossler premium jackup returned to work on July 12 after being stacked May 9, 2004. The Noble Ronald Hoope premium jackup also recently began a one- well contract, with a two-well contract with another operator to follow. In Brazil, the Company's Noble Roger Eason drillship is in the shipyard undergoing planned maintenance and significant upgrades, including water depth increase to 7,200 feet, with completion expected in November 2004. The unit will then commence a 700-day contract for Petrobras at a dayrate of $96,250, plus the opportunity for performance bonus.

The Company's Middle East operating division, which includes India and the Mediterranean Sea, experienced an increase of 379 operating days from the third 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. The Noble Charlie Yester and Noble Gene House commenced contracts in December 2003 and February 2004, respectively.

Offshore contract drilling services revenues from deepwater drilling units (capable of drilling in 4,000 feet or greater) accounted for approximately 29 percent and 39 percent of the Company's total contract drilling services revenues for the third 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 in December 2004. Contract drilling services revenues from international sources accounted for approximately 75 percent and 72 percent of the Company's total contract drilling services revenues for the third quarter of 2004 and 2003, respectively.

The average dayrate for the Company's international jackup rigs was $49,954 in the third quarter of 2004, compared to $52,209 in the third quarter of 2003. Utilization on these rigs was 82 percent in the recent quarter and 80 percent in the third quarter of 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 14 percent to $106,880 in the third quarter of 2004 as compared to the third quarter of 2003. These units were fully utilized during the third quarter of 2004, whereas utilization was 95 percent in the same quarter of last year. The average dayrate on the Company's domestic jackups was $45,935 in the third quarter of 2004, which is 53 percent higher than the third quarter of 2003. Utilization on these units in the recent quarter was 100 percent as compared to 95 percent in the third quarter of 2003. The Company had 76 fewer operating days for domestic jackup rigs during the third 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 August 2003 and December 2003, respectively.

The increase in the Company's operating expenses in the third quarter of 2004 as compared to the same quarter in 2003 was attributable primarily to expenses related to the hurricane damage as discussed above and the addition of three operating rigs since the third 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 activated the Noble Therald Martin semisubmersible in November 2003.

Day said, "The Company continues to expand its worldwide competitive position in a very effective and focused manner."

Noble Corporation is a leading provider of diversified services for the oil and gas industry. Contract drilling services are performed with the Company's fleet of 59 mobile offshore drilling units located in key markets worldwide. This fleet consists of 13 semisubmersibles, three dynamically positioned drillships, 40 jackups and three submersibles. In addition to the rigs in the fleet discussed above, the Company has also purchased an option to acquire the premium jackup, the Maersk Valiant. Approximately 80 percent of the fleet is currently deployed in international markets, principally including the Middle East, Mexico, the North Sea, Brazil, West Africa, India, and the Mediterranean Sea. The Company provides technologically advanced drilling-related products and services designed to create value for our customers. The Company also provides labor contract drilling services, well site and project management services, and engineering services. The Company's ordinary shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "NE".
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