Contract drilling services revenue for the first quarter was $577 million, up 14 percent compared to $508 million in the prior quarter and up 41 percent compared to $408 million in the first quarter of last year.
Cash operating margins exceeded 65 percent, generating $270 million in net cash provided by operating activities in the first quarter. The Company invested $237 million in capital projects during the quarter. Debt as a percentage of total capitalization increased to 19 percent at March 31, 2007, from 18 percent at December 31, 2006.
Mark A. Jackson, Noble Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "Our strong first quarter results reflect continued execution of our strategy -- securing contracts for our premium jackups in key international markets, adding to our ultra-deepwater fleet, maximizing our margins by controlling costs, and delivering on our shipyard projects. At the same time, we extended our outstanding safety record by working over 3 million hours without a lost time accident."
As previously announced in February of this year, the Company's Board of Directors approved an increase in the total number of ordinary shares authorized for repurchase to 15.3 million shares. During the first quarter, the Company repurchased 1.2 million shares at an average price of $72.71 for a total investment of $87 million. In the last 12 months, 5 million shares have been repurchased with a total investment of $354 million at an average price of $70.85 per share.
All of the Company's premium jackups are located in four major international markets, where activity increases and strong pricing momentum led to higher dayrates for contracts that were extended or renewed by the Company in the first quarter. Including contracts signed in the current quarter, 86 percent and 51 percent of available days for our international jackup fleet are committed for 2007 and 2008, respectively.
In the Middle East, the Noble Kenneth Delaney received a contract extension at $195,000 per day and the Noble Dick Favor received an extension at a dayrate of $160,000. Both of these extensions were leading edge dayrates for jackups working in water depths of 300 and 150 feet, respectively.
The Company also received commitments in the North Sea for the Noble Lynda Bossler and the Noble George Sauvageau at dayrates of $220,000 and $225,000, extending their contracts through mid and late 2008. Both jackups are capable of working in water depths up to 250 feet.
Contracts were also extended for jackups located in West Africa and Mexico during the quarter, the Noble Don Walker at a dayrate of $165,000 currently working in Nigeria, and $150,000 per day for the Noble Earl Frederickson working for PEMEX. The Noble Don Walker, a 150 foot jackup, is now contracted through the spring of 2008. In Mexico, the Noble Earl Frederickson, a 250 foot jackup, is also contracted through the spring of 2008.
In the deepwater arena, the Company announced the signing of a Letter of Intent for the Noble Jim Day, adding another 12,000 foot dynamically positioned semisubmersible to our fleet in late 2009. With the completion of the Noble Clyde Boudreaux, Noble will operate six deepwater semisubmersibles in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which account for approximately 25 percent of total contract drilling services revenue.
Shipyard Projects Update
At the end of the first quarter, the Company had customer commitments for three 400 foot jackups and one 10,000 foot dynamically positioned semisubmersible being constructed in Dalian, China. The first of these new jackups, the Noble Roger Lewis, is scheduled for final commissioning and transport to Qatar in the third quarter of 2007. The Noble Hans Deul and Noble Scott Marks are scheduled for final commissioning and transport to the North Sea in the second quarters of 2008 and 2009, respectively. All of our new jackups are being constructed under turnkey contracts with the shipyard.
The Noble Dave Beard, a 10,000 foot dynamically positioned semisubmersible, is scheduled for final commissioning and transport to Brazil in the third quarter of 2008.
Construction on the Noble Danny Adkins and the Noble Jim Day, two 12,000 foot dynamically positioned semisubmersibles, is well under way in the Jurong shipyard in Singapore. All long lead time equipment has been purchased, facilitating the scheduled delivery of the Noble Danny Adkins in the first quarter of 2009 and a fourth quarter 2009 delivery for the Noble Jim Day. Achieving on-time delivery for our seven major newbuild projects, including the Noble Clyde Boudreaux, should generate additional earnings per share of approximately $3.90 in the calendar year 2010.
In addition to the major newbuild projects described above, the Company budgeted 602 unpaid shipyard days in 2007 for major upgrades, repairs and inspections of our existing fleet, comprising 21 separate projects. In the first quarter, Noble budgeted 98 shipyard days on five projects in three different shipyards. Actual shipyard days were 1 percent above Budget while actual costs were 2 percent below Budget.
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