Why We’re Buying Noble

The video below is part of The Motley Fool's "11 O'Clock Stock" series where we recommend a new stock every weekday at 11 a.m. ET on Fool.com over the next 50 weekdays. To see a video of co-founder Tom Gardner explaining the series, click here. To see our original recommendation of Noble (NYSE: NE  ) , click here.

Given what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico and the Obama administration’s efforts to place a moratorium on offshore drilling, why pick a company that is surrounded by uncertainty? Fool.com analyst David Williamson argues that the offshore drilling industry is attractive for just that reason. Click play on the video below to hear him expound on why Noble is a stock that deserves your attention.

All of the negative news has unfairly beaten down the oil services sector in excess of the market. Noble is down 20%, Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO  ) is off almost 30%, while Transocean (NYSE: RIG  ) has been nearly cut in half since its rig, the Deepwater Horizon, caught fire on April 20. Keep in mind, only 22% of Noble’s revenue came from the Gulf, and the company can reallocate affected rigs across the globe.

When Noble popped up on the radar as a potential recommendation weeks ago, one of its more attractive aspects was its clean balance sheet and net cash position that could be used to increase its dividend or make a timely acquisition. After losing out on a chance to gobble up Scorpion Drilling to SeaDrill (NYSE: SDRL  ) , Noble regrouped and made a successful $2.16 billion run at Frontier Drilling. What’s great about the Frontier purchase is that it will be accretive to 2011’s earnings. This isn’t a deal where shareholders are sold a bill of goods based on murky talk of synergies; according to management we will see a bump in cash flow immediately upon the deals completion and watch the additional revenue filter down to the bottom line by next year.

Furthermore, the acquisition added some great vessels to Noble’s fleet, doubled the company’s backlog, and brought along some valuable contracts with Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) .  All in all, this is the type of aggressive move a savvy company with a strong balance sheet makes at the bottom of the cycle.

Finally, Noble is a great way to take advantage of a macro energy outlook that remains still bullish. If anything, the disaster in the Gulf shows the great lengths we are going through to secure oil – the low hanging fruit is gone. 

The rise of resource nationalism (like when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez forced Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) and BP (NYSE: BP  ) to turn over assets to state-run PvDSA) has pushed Big Oil and other operators into harsher and more technically challenging environments in the quest for reserves. As one of the few unclaimed areas left, deepwater offshore plays are increasingly attractive to international oil companies, and drilling contractors, like Noble, are a critical part of that equation.

David Williamson owns shares of BP. Chevron is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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