Noble Corp. (NE)

Q2 2010 Earnings Call

July 21, 2010 10:00 am ET


Lee Ahlstrom - VP of IR and Planning

David Williams - President and CEO

Tom Mitchell - CFO

Roger Hunt - SVP, Marketing and Contracts


Angie Sedita - UBS

Collin Gerry - Raymond James

Joe Hill - Tudor Pickering

Robin Shoemaker - Citigroup

Kurt Hallead - RBC Capital Markets

Roger Read - Natexis

Robert McKenzie - FBR Capital Markets

Alan Laws - BMO Capital Markets

Dan Boyd - Goldman Sachs



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Good morning. My name is Regina, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Noble Corporation, second quarter earnings call. (Operator Instructions)

As a reminder, this conference is being recorded today, Tuesday, July 20, 2010.

I would now like to introduce Mr. Lee Ahlstrom, Vice President of Investor Relations and Planning. Mr. Ahlstrom, you may begin your conference.

Lee Ahlstrom

Thank you Regina, and welcome everyone to Noble Corporation's second quarter 2010 earnings call.

Before we begin, I’d like to remind everyone that any statements we make today about our plans, expectations, estimates, predictions or similar expressions for the future, including those concerning financial performance, operating results, tax rates, spending guidance, the drilling business, the period of restricted drilling activity in the US, Gulf of Mexico, and the effects of our confirmation of the previously announced Frontier transaction and Shell agreements are forward-looking statements and subject to risks and uncertainties.

Our filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which are posted on our website discuss the risks and uncertainties in our business and industry, and the various factors that could keep outcomes of any forward-looking statements from being realized. Our actual results could differ materially from these forward-looking statements.

We have included summary balance sheets and income and cash flow statements with our earnings news release. Also, note that we may use non-GAAP financial measures in the call today. If we do, you will find the required supplemental disclosure for these measures, including the most directly comparable GAAP measure on our website and an associated reconciliation also on our website.

Now, I’ll turn the call over to David Williams, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

David Williams

Thanks, Lee. Good morning to everyone, and thanks for joining us today. It has certainly been an eventful time from the tragic events in the Gulf of Mexico and the impact of resulting drilling limitations to our recently announced agreement to acquire privately held Frontier Drilling and further, our separate agreements with Shell provide unprecedented backlog and sound contract security. To put it mildly, it's been a busy quarter.

Joining me today on the call are Tom Mitchell, our CFO and our Senior VP of Marketing and Contracts, Roger Hunt. Our prepared remarks will be relatively brief.

In addition, because our deal with Frontier hasn't closed yet, we won't be able to provide you with much more detail than we did in our call of June 28. For those of you who might have missed the Frontier news, let me offer a very brief recap. Noble has agreed to acquire Frontier Drilling in a cash transaction that buys the enterprise at $2.16 billion.

We will fund this with a combination of cash and debt. The deal has an FPSO and six floating drilling units, including two high-spec, dynamically positioned ultra deepwater Bully-class drillships that are owned 50-50 by joint ventures between Shell and Frontier. Together, this part of the deal adds about 23 rig years of work and $3.2 billion to our growth backlog.

On top of this are separate agreements with Shell, which provide firm contracts on two new ultra deepwater drillships, one of which is the Noble Globetrotter already under construction and one as yet unnamed ship, plus a three-year extension on the Noble Jim Thompson. The ships are both at rates of $410000 per day for the first five years, and float with an index in years six to 10 plus a 15% upside in the form of bonus potential throughout the 10-year term.

No less important were the agreements with Shell which protected backlog on the Noble Danny Adkins, Noble Jim Thompson, and the Frontier driller, while drilling operations in the Gulf were restricted by government mandate, all without losing a day of backlog at their agreed day rates.

All together, both of these commitments are expected to add more than $7 billion in gross contract backlog, and over 45 years of rig employment. These agreements collectively will take our estimated gross fleet backlog upto about $14 billion, almost twice our current market depth and demonstrate the growth strategy that we have been sharing with you for some time.

We're very excited about this opportunity, and to further demonstrate Shell's commitment, following on the heels of this recent announcement Shell has also committed to a two-year extension on the Noble Hans Deul at $175000 per day for continuing operations in the North Sea.

Our strategy of booking secure backlog with NOCs and supermajors is alive and well, and we are delighted with the level of commitment and confidence that Shell has shown in Noble.

We can't really comment too much more on Frontier, other than to say we continue to expect the transaction to close by the end of the month. Obviously, a deal of this size is going to have implications both for expenses and capital expenditures. And although we are working to refine the impact of this transaction, we won't be able to provide some of the needed detail until after we close.

As a result, we won't be providing any updated guidance for you today on the Frontier side of the transaction. On thing I can share is that we have been working on plans to fully immerse the Frontier crews in the Noble safety and operational culture, something we see as central to integrating these operations into the fleet.

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