By Houston Business Journal

The federal governmentâ¿¿s ban on deepwater drilling has hurt at least one companyâ¿¿s second quarter profits as earnings season kicks off.

Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE), which is based in Switzerland but whose main U.S. office is in Sugar Land, reported Monday second quarter earnings of $218 million, or 85 cents per share, on revenue of $710 million. The company notched earnings of $392 million, or $1.49 per diluted share, for the second quarter of last year.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting the offshore drilling contractor to post earnings of $1.05 per share for the three months ended June 30, 2010.

Noble blamed the disappointing results in part on ⿿the current drilling restrictions in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.⿝

⿿Noble⿿s second-quarter revenues declined due to a combination of factors, not the least of which was the government-ordered drilling limitations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico,⿝ said David W. Williams, Noble⿿s chairman and chief executive. ⿿However, we have moved quickly on a variety of fronts to protect our backlog and shareholder value.⿝

The government implemented in late May a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the wake of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent massive oil spill that was only halted on July 15. Although a judge put a block on the ban, the government put forth a revised moratorium and drilling is still essentially on hold.

In late June, Noble announced plans to buy Frontier Drilling for $2.16 billion in cash.

Shares of Noble were down nearly 6 percent to $28.85 in after-hours trading Monday but by Tuesday afternoon, shares had recovered some and were trading at $31.98.

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals
Copyright 2010