For investors looking to ride the energy wave, the contract drillers are tough to beat. Since the demand for deepwater rigs is particularly stunning, and dayrates keep running higher, I thought it would be instructive to look at some deals just announced over the past week or so.
As mentioned here, Transocean (NYSE: RIG ) landed an absurdly long 10-year contract with Petrobras (NYSE: PBR ) on a newbuild drillship. The payout is $1.68 billion over the 10-year term, which translates to about a $460,000 dayrate. That's not a leading-edge rate, but the long-term commitment more than compensates. Speaking of compensation, it's worth mentioning that Petrobras is going so far as to pay Transocean's taxes. That makes the after-tax returns here all the more competitive.
Next came an announcement from Noble (NYSE: NE ) that client Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO ) had doubled the length of an upcoming contract from two years to four. The newbuild semisubmersible won't even begin operating until 2010, so this move represents an effort by Marathon to secure rig capacity in the 2012-2014 time period. Gulf of Mexico drillers really have no choice -- they can't risk letting Petrobras snap up everything in sight.
Further rounding out the offshore drilling picture is Atwood Oceanics' (NYSE: ATW ) new series of contract awards from Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL ) -- yes, it shares a common lineage with the driller -- and Blackstone-backed (NYSE: BX ) Kosmos Energy. Dayrates escalate from $511,000 to $545,000 over a four-year period. That more than doubles the Atwood hunter's current dayrate, and is just incredible for a mid-water rig built in the early 1980s. I'm glad I finally realized the potential of Atwood's fleet and backed off my bearishness in February.
In short, my fellow Fools, it would be hard to go far wrong by picking up shares of any of the three drillers mentioned above. Of course, Noble happens to be a personal favorite, not least because of its seat at the Brazilian feast.