Noble reported first quarter 2010 earnings of $371 million, or $1.43 per diluted share, versus $414 million, or $1.58 per diluted share, for the first quarter of last year. Contract drilling services revenues for the first quarter 2010 were $809 million versus $872 million in first quarter 2009. Contract drilling margins for the first quarter 2010 were approximately 68.5 percent and the Company generated $504 million in net cash provided by operating activities in the quarter. Noble invested $339 million in capital projects during the quarter.
"In spite of the continued strength in oil prices throughout the quarter, the contracting environment remains challenging," said David W. Williams, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Nevertheless, we believe Noble remains well positioned. We have a strong backlog with quality customers, liquidity in excess of $1.4 billion, and we remain diligent in our attention to controlling costs. As we enter our 90th year of business, we will continue to focus on advancing our culture of safety, maintaining high levels of service for our customers and delivering value to our shareholders."
During the first quarter, Noble repurchased approximately 2.1 million shares at an average cost per share of $42.21. At the end of the first quarter 2010, the Company had approximately 10.8 million shares remaining on its existing repurchase authorization.
At the end of the first quarter 2010, approximately 55 percent of the Company's available rig operating days were committed for the remainder of 2010 and approximately 28 percent were committed for 2011. The Company's total backlog at March 31, 2010 was approximately $7.5 billion.
A major milestone was reached recently in the Company’s fleet expansion program. The Noble Dave Beard, the Company's newbuild 10,000 foot ultra-deepwater, dynamically-positioned semisubmersible rig, commenced operations in Brazil under a five-year drilling contract with Petrobras on March 19, 2010. The Beard joins Noble’s fleet of three drillships and two semisubmersibles currently working in the area.
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