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Ultra-deepwater drilling is the buzzword right now. Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE ) is the latest to jump onto the ultra-deepwater drilling bandwagon, and it has produced pleasant results. And this is just the beginning; the company sees further growth in the near future.
First-quarter results have been pretty impressive. Net income leapfrogged 122% from the year-ago quarter to $120 million, or $0.47 per share. This actually doesn't come as a major surprise given the way Noble has improved on its top line for the last four consecutive quarters, indicating strong fundamentals. For the record, first-quarter revenues stood at $798 million, a 38% gain over last year.
Transition to success?
Noble is going through a fleet transformation with the induction of more ultra-deepwater rigs. The newly built drillship Noble Globetrotter I, which can drill in 10,000 feet of water, is undergoing inspection for a 10-year contract in the Gulf of Mexico which is expected to commence by the end of this month. The company also managed to get higher dayrates for at least four of its deepwater rigs.
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A ) is operating eight of Noble's rigs spread across the Gulf and off the lucrative Brazilian coast, making it among the biggest Noble customers. Drilling in the Gulf is especially picking up. Hercules Offshore (Nasdaq: HERO ) , the largest rig operator in the region, has a lesser number of cold-stacked rigs this quarter and at the same time is commanding higher dayrates.
Noble's decision to move into ultra-deepwater drilling is laudable. At the end of the first quarter, total backlog of orders stood at a commendable $14.5 billion -- up from $13.7 billion three months before.
It's apparent that management considered the long-term view before embarking on the transition. To facilitate the transition, the company raised a $1.2 billion debt by issuing five-, 10-, and 30-year notes, which I believe was a good move.
Foolish bottom line
With a solid management backing it up, Noble is poised to do well in the future. The company should gain immensely from the transition. Keep abreast of the situation by adding Noble Corp. to your free personalized watchlist.
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