Several offshore drilling companies have seen their stock prices decline from the levels that they traded at a year ago. The reason for this is that the industry is suffering from a temporary slowdown due to oil and gas companies putting less rigs under contract than they were last year. However, this has not had an impact on the ability of many of the companies to pay their dividends. As a result, some offshore drilling companies are now offering dividend yields well above that of the overall market. One of these companies is Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE ) .
Noble's fleet offers diversification
Noble is one of the largest companies in the offshore drilling industry. The company has a fleet of 78 drilling rigs consisting of both ultra-deepwater floating rigs and shallow-water jack-ups. This gives the company the ability to operate in any environment that a customer may require. It also provides Noble with considerable diversification. This is helpful because the weakness in the industry is focused on only ultra-deepwater drilling; there is still considerable demand for shallow-water jack-up units. This allows Noble to continue to secure contracts and grow its operations despite the weakness in the overall industry.
Growth is evident in first quarter results
This growth shows up in the company's first quarter results (Noble has not announced its second quarter results yet). In the first quarter, Noble had total revenue of $1.25 billion. This is higher than both the $1.17 billion that the company brought in back in the fourth quarter or the $971 million that the company generated in the first quarter of last year. Noble's net income also increased significantly in the most recent quarter compared to both of the other two quarters. Noble reported total net income of $273 million in the first quarter compared to $189 million in the fourth quarter and $168 million in the first quarter of last year.
Potential to continue forward growth
Noble has the potential to continue this growth going forward. This is because of the rigs that Noble currently has under construction. The company is building one ultra-deepwater drillship that will be completed later this year. This rig has already secured a contract with Freeport-McMoran (NYSE: FCX ) under which it will be paid the exceptionally high dayrate of $632,000. This contract is scheduled to begin in October, and it will clearly increase Noble's revenue and cash flows at that time.
New rigs will be growth drivers
This rig is not the only one that Noble has under construction nor the only one that will prove accretive to Noble's cash flows. The company also has three shallow-water jack-up rigs under construction, two of which have already secured contracts. The first of these is the Noble Tom Prosser, which has secured a contract with Apache (NYSE: APA ) . This contract will begin in the first quarter of next year and will result in Apache paying $203,000 per day to Noble to use the rig.
The second jack-up rig that has secured a contract is the CJ70 Jackup, which was awarded a contract by Statoil (NYSE: STO ) . This contract is scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2016 and will result in Statoil paying Noble $447,000 per day. As with Noble's newbuild drillship, these two rigs will prove accretive to Noble's revenue and cash flow.
High and sustainable dividend
These forward growth prospects should ensure that Noble can both maintain and even grow its market-beating dividend going forward. Noble pays a dividend of $1.50 per share, which gives the company a dividend yield of 4.64% at its current stock price.
Noble is far from the only offshore drilling company with forward growth prospects and a high dividend yield. Ensco plc (NYSE: ESV ) is larger than Noble Corp. and yields 5.55%. Seadrill (NYSE: SDRL ) , the fourth largest offshore drilling company, yields 10.46%. Finally, Pacific Drilling (NYSE: PACD ) will begin paying a dividend in 2015 and should yield a little over 7%.
As you can see, sometimes the market can push down a stock even if the underlying company is actually doing quite well. It is wise to watch for such opportunities as they often offer investors the opportunity to earn outsized profits. Noble could be one such opportunity and deserves a look.
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