Noble 2Q Earnings Drop on Rig Downtime

Noble reported second quarter 2011 earnings of $54 million, or $0.21 per diluted share, matching earnings reported for the first quarter of 2011. Results for the second quarter included a $0.04 per diluted share benefit relating to the settlement of certain discrete tax matters. First quarter 2011 results included a one-time after-tax net gain of $0.06 per diluted share relating to the substitution of the drillship Noble Phoenix for the drillship Noble Muravlenko in Brazil. Contract drilling services revenues totaled $590 million in the second quarter of 2011, up nine percent from $543 million in the first quarter of 2011. Contract drilling margin percentage for the second quarter of 2011 was approximately 43 percent compared to 44 percent in the prior quarter. Noble invested $815 million in capital projects during the second quarter.

At June 30, 2011, approximately 73 percent of the Company's available rig operating days were committed for the remainder of 2011 and approximately 43 percent were committed for 2012. The Company's total backlog at June 30, 2011 was approximately $13 billion.

David W. Williams, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, noted, "Second quarter results were significantly hindered by several downtime events involving five rigs. Although we were disappointed by the interruption in service on these rigs, most of which pertained to subsea equipment and control systems, four out of five rigs returned to service prior to the end of the second quarter. Despite the fleet downtime, the quarter was characterized by an improvement in business fundamentals, as utilization and tendering activity improved for both jackups and deepwater units, and several Noble rigs returned to active status."

Operations Highlights

In Mexico, six of Noble's jackups returned to active status during the second quarter following the award of contracts, while a contract on the Noble Sam Noble is expected to commence by the end of July. Also, the Noble Roy Butler was awarded a three-year contract in July, which is expected to commence in September 2011 following the completion of a leg-extension project. Dayrates for the rigs that have or will soon return to work range from approximately $80,000 to $100,000. Noble now has all 12 of its jackup rigs in Mexico under contract, with 10 of the 12 units under contract into late 2011 or beyond.

In the North Sea, the jackup Noble Byron Welliver was awarded a three-well contract at a dayrate of $91,000, while the jackup Noble Lynda Bossler was awarded a two-well contract at a dayrate of $105,000. Both rigs are expected to commence their new contracts in or around January 2012.

The Company continued to build its presence in Saudi Arabia following the award of contracts for the jackups Noble Gene House and Noble Joe Beall. The three-year contracts are expected to commence in September 2011 with an operating dayrate for each rig of $81,000. With these awards, the Company now has four jackups committed to Saudi Aramco.

Finally, in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, the semisubmersible Noble Jim Day began receiving its full contract dayrate of $485,000 on July 11 following the award to our client of permits necessary to commence well operations in the region. In addition, certification of the subsea control system on the semisubmersible Noble Driller was completed in July and the rig is expected to resume operations shortly at its full operating dayrate, pending receipt of a drilling permit. The Company now has certified subsea equipment and control systems on all six of its active semisubmersibles in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

"Offshore demand continues to build in most regions around the world, supporting expectations for gradually improving utilization and dayrates among our jackups and floating rigs," said Williams. He added, "Additional client demand for jackups is visible in Mexico and the Middle East. In the deepwater sector, Petrobras continues to tender for dynamically positioned and moored rigs for offshore Brazil with contract lengths of three to five years and we continue to see client interest in some of the emerging deepwater frontiers."

In closing, Williams stated, "Our fleet enhancement program, currently composed of the construction of seven ultra-deepwater drillships and four high-specification jackups, is transforming Noble into one of the industry's most modern and capable offshore drilling contractors. As client demand in the offshore sector increases and expands geographically, so does the need for technically advanced, versatile and efficient rigs that address both shallow and deepwater prospects. We believe our strategic growth initiatives strongly position the Company to benefit from further client demand and offshore industry expansion."