The more things change at Pride International (NYSE: PDE), the more they stay the same.

The drilling contractor has undergone an extreme makeover in recent years. Latin American land rigs? Left behind. Exploration and production services segment? Exit, stage right. Tender-assist rigs? Ta-ta!

Pride prizes the deepwater, and over the past year, it has taken on a triple helping of new drillships. Because some of these rigs, which won't hit the water before 2010, had no contract terms attached at the outset, they're a somewhat aggressive call on steady oil exploration activity for years to come.

Pride just keeps receiving confirmation that building on spec is a safe bet. The final uncontracted vessel just signed on for a five-year stint with BP (NYSE: BP) in the Gulf of Mexico. The client's deepwater demands require extra bells and whistles that raise the original capital cost by 7% to an estimated $725 million. Even at a strong dayrate, Pride's internal rate of return estimate for this rig is only in the mid- to high teens. There's a reason ENSCO International (NYSE: ESV) sticks to more Spartan semisubmersibles.

Other things are changing at Pride as well. In the first quarter, dayrates rose in most markets, and rig utilization improved across the board. Combined with one-time proceeds from asset sales, which dwarfed operating cash flow, net income was a meaty $240.7 million. But -- and anyone who's read my past Pride coverage probably saw this one coming -- the fact remains that EBITDA margins have not improved. I prefer to look at contract drilling margins, but unlike Noble (NYSE: NE) or Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO), Pride doesn't break this information out on its income statement.

There's plenty of excitement coming from this company -- from swashbuckling Seadrill's recent sidling-up to more big-rig deals sure to come. Pride is pursuing more deepwater kits, and if they have to be on spec, so be it. If frugality floats your boat, however, I continue to recommend directing your offshore drilling dollars elsewhere.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.