Noble's Third Quarter Profit Trumps Expectations

Noble Corporation has reported third quarter 2009 earnings of $426 million, or $1.63 per diluted share, versus earnings of $383 million, or $1.42 per diluted share, for the third quarter of last year. The results for the third quarter 2009 include a net tax benefit of $0.05 per share related to the settlement of tax assessments in various locales and other discrete items.

Contract drilling services revenues for the third quarter 2009 were $875 million, up 4.8 percent from the third quarter 2008. Contract drilling margins for the third quarter 2009 were approximately 71 percent, generating $517 million in net cash provided by operating activities. Noble invested $367 million in capital projects during the quarter.

"At Noble, we are continuing to drive performance," said David W. Williams, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Our earnings continue to benefit from the strength of our backlog, the revenue contribution from our newbuilds going into service and, most importantly, the outstanding performance of our crews."

During the third quarter 2009, the Company repurchased 2.0 million shares, bringing year-to-date total repurchases to 3.7 million shares at an average price per share of $30.35 and a total cost of $113 million.


In the North Sea, the last of the Company's three newbuild jackups, the Noble Scott Marks, commenced operations in the third quarter under a two-year contract with Venture Production at a dayrate of approximately $213,000. Also in that region, the Company announced a series of new commitments during the quarter: the Noble Al White is undergoing upgrades and regulatory inspection before returning to work under an 18-month contract with Total in mid-December 2009 at a dayrate of $112,000; the Noble George Sauvageau has secured a contract for one year at a dayrate of $118,000; and the Noble Piet van Ede has secured an additional commitment which is expected to last into the fourth quarter of 2010 at dayrates ranging from $109,000 to $152,000. In West Africa, the Noble Lloyd Noble returned to work after securing a series of jobs in Nigeria at dayrates of between $90,000 and $95,000 through February 2010.

Subsequent to the quarter close, the dynamically positioned ultra-deepwater semisubmersible Noble Danny Adkins departed Singapore after conducting a series of successful sea trials. The unit is under wet tow to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico where it is expected to undergo final provisioning before commencing its four-year contract with Shell in the first quarter of 2010. The unit is contracted at a dayrate of $447,000.

"We believe that the current commodity price environment in the midst of the 2010 budget cycle bodes well for activity levels next year," said Williams.