Noble ( NE) posted a drop in earnings Monday and said its outlook remains cloudy. The oil services giant, based in St. Michael, Barbados, posted a second-quarter profit of $34 million, or 26 cents a share. That's down from the year-ago $44 million, or 33 cents a share, but a penny ahead of the Wall Street analyst estimate. Revenue rose to $253 million from $248 million a year ago, putting the company's top line just shy of the $254 million consensus quoted by Thomson First Call. Latest-quarter results were hurt by lower utilization rates in the North Sea and a shipyard project for the Noble Roger Eason drillship. The company said its international average day rate fell to $50,277 from $52,286 a year earlier. Meanwhile, the average day rate for deepwater assets in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico tumbled 30%. "While we are generally more encouraged about the improvement in several markets, it is still too early to conclude we have turned the corner in terms of a clear worldwide acceleration in activity," CEO James Day said. "However, I would assume the market would begin to accelerate before year-end." The news comes just days after Noble exercised an option to acquire a premium jackup rig, which is now called the
Noble Cees van Diemen. Noble, which operates 13 semi-submersibles, three dynamically positioned drillships, 40 jackup rigs and three submersibles, saw its shares drop 3 cents to $39.72.