Noble Energy 1Q Earnings Fall on Charges

Noble reported first quarter 2011 net income of $14 million, or $0.08 per share diluted, on revenues of $899 million. The Company's first quarter 2010 net income was $237 million, or $1.34 per share diluted, on revenues of $733 million. First quarter 2011 net income includes items that are not typically considered by analysts in published estimates. Excluding the impact of these items, which were primarily unrealized commodity derivative losses and a rig standby charge in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, first quarter 2011 adjusted net income was $240 million, or $1.35 per share diluted. Adjusted net income for the first quarter of 2010 was $138 million, or $0.78 per share diluted.

Discretionary cash flow for the first quarter 2011 was $576 million, compared to $447 million for the similar quarter in 2010. Net cash provided by operating activities was $484 million, and capital expenditures were $545 million.

Key highlights for the first quarter 2011 include:

  • Increased sales volumes 9 percent versus the first quarter 2010 to 215 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day (MBoe/d)
  • Drilled 12 additional horizontal Niobrara wells in the DJ basin, 9 of which were located in the Wattenberg field
  • Received industry's first drilling permit post-moratorium to resume deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling at the Santiago prospect
  • Finalized field development drilling and well completions at the Aseng oil project offshore Equatorial Guinea
  • Completed seismic acquisition of 3D data offshore Nicaragua and 2D data offshore France
  • Issued $850 million of 30-year unsecured notes and enhanced liquidity position to over $3.5 billion between cash and available credit

Charles D. Davidson, Noble Energy's Chairman and CEO, commented, "Noble Energy's first quarter has delivered a great start to 2011. With high liquid volumes and pricing, combined with good cost control, the business generated very strong cash flow. Our balance sheet was further fortified with a successful debt offering, and as a result, the Company is in a very strong position. Operationally, we remain focused on delivering production and cash flow growth from our base of discovered resources and major project developments. We are excited to have active investment programs ongoing in all four of our core areas, including development of our major projects, as well as exploration, appraisal, and development drilling underway throughout our global portfolio."

Total sales volumes for the first quarter 2011 averaged 215 MBoe/d. Approximately 40 percent of the Company's sales volumes were liquids, with 31 percent international natural gas, and the remainder U.S. natural gas. Production volumes were 216 MBoe/d.

The Company's international sales volumes were 101 MBoe/d, a 25 percent increase versus the first quarter 2010. Lower facility maintenance downtime and higher liquid liftings in Equatorial Guinea resulted in a 15 MBoe/d increase. Natural gas sales in Israel were up 61 percent to 140 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d), with the higher volumes attributable to increased overall demand for natural gas in power generation, as well as the impact of lower competing imports. In the North Sea, strong performance and additional deliverability at Dumbarton and Lochranza accounted for increased oil volumes. The Company's 2010 volumes included 30 MMcf/d of natural gas in Ecuador, where the Company's production sharing contract was terminated in late 2010.

Noble Energy's U.S. volumes were 114 MBoe/d for the first quarter of 2011. Winter storms reduced the Company's onshore U.S. volumes in the first quarter 2011 by nearly 2 MBoe/d on average. In addition, U.S. volumes do not include the approximately 6 MBoe/d of Mid-continent and Illinois basin oil assets which were sold in the third quarter 2010. In the DJ basin, first quarter 2011 volumes averaged over 56 MBoe/d, up 12 percent from the first quarter 2010. The increase is primarily attributed to ongoing vertical and horizontal drilling at Wattenberg, as well as the impact of the asset acquisition that closed in the first quarter last year. The Company experienced natural declines in various onshore natural gas plays and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico versus the first quarter last year.

Global crude oil pricing averaged $97.15 per barrel for the first quarter 2011, up 31 percent from the same period last year. Natural gas realizations in the U.S. averaged $4.07 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf), down from $5.46 per Mcf in the first quarter 2010. In Israel, natural gas realizations continue to benefit from strong global liquid markets, with pricing averaging $4.19 per Mcf. Natural gas liquid pricing in the U.S. averaged $47.80 per barrel, or 52 percent of the Company's average U.S. crude oil realization.

Total production costs per barrel of oil equivalent (Boe), including lease operating expenses, production and ad valorem taxes, and transportation were down 6 percent from the first quarter of 2010 to $7.34 per Boe. Lease operating expense was $4.75 per Boe and depreciation, depletion, and amortization was $11.42 per Boe. The Company's mix of production, with higher volumes in low-cost areas such as Equatorial Guinea and Israel, contributed to lower per unit rates versus the first quarter last year.

Exploration expense for the first quarter 2011 included $26 million of seismic expenditures, including data acquisitions in the DJ basin, offshore Nicaragua and offshore France. General and administrative expenses were up primarily related to increased staffing for the development of the Company's major development projects. The Company's adjusted effective tax rate and deferred portion were both 34 percent for the first quarter 2011.

Other operating income/expense includes an $18 million rig standby charge incurred as a result of the time required to obtain deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling permits post the moratorium. Included in other income/expense for the first quarter 2011 is a $10 million deferred compensation charge relating to the quarterly value change of Noble Energy stock held in a benefit program.