NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A big, favorable legal decision was handed to Transocean (RIG) Thursday afternoon, causing shares to briefly hit $50 this morning, a level they haven't seen since November of last year and capping a nearly 30% rally from their lows under $40 in December of last year. But of course, the question for shareholders is, now what? For those who have already caught some of that 30% gain, now would be a great time to take some of those profits.
The questions surrounding Transocean shares have not recently been about rig rates or activity in the Gulf of Mexico, or their oversubscribed scheduling, or their updating of older blow-out preventers. In short, all the bottom-up fundamentals of the company have taken a back seat to the drag-out, bare knuckles legal battles between them and BP (BP), the leaseholder of record of the fated Deepwater Horizon rig that caused the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill at Macondo in 2010.
And with court cases nearing, shares had swooned, reaching a low of close to $38 a share before beginning a recovery in the New Year.But Thursday, the Federal judge overseeing the legal battles in New Orleans, again confirmed the indemnity clauses signed by BP in leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig from Transocean, meaning that BP alone must cover the compensatory claims made by both the rig workers and from the resulting spill, an enormous possible financial burden removed. On the other hand, it does not protect RIG from the hand of the Justice Department still considering their fines for Macondo, nor does it stop the legal case between BP and RIG to begin at the end of February. While the Justice department might be more apt to take a cue from their own federal bench, it is certainly not assured. From my point of view, having ridden positions in this stock to the depths and back, I'm more likely to pull way back on my exposure to shares, because while the result from Judge Barbier was relatively easy to predict, the result from the Justice department and the bargaining between BP and RIG are far less so. BP was surprisingly lenient in its requests from other partners in Macondo and has settled with Halliburton (HAL), Anadarko (APC) and Cameron (CAM) already. But the bruising legal battle already sustained here with Transocean might make BP less ready to make a conciliatory settlement before proceedings start. It's tough to tell. What is true, however, is that these two companies will have to work together again -- and closely so. BP is returning to the Gulf of Mexico in force, and Transocean still owns most of the only rigs capable of the deep water work that will be done there. But for now, I've had enough -- time to take most of these bets off the table and watch.
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