Noble's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Noble Corporation (NE)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 19, 2012 9:00 am ET

Executives

Jeff Chastain - VP, IR

David Williams - Chairman, President and CEO

James MacLennan - SVP and CFO

Roger Hunt - SVP, Marketing and Contracts

Analysts

Dave Wilson - Howard Weil

Kurt Hallead - RBC Capital Markets

Robin Shoemaker - Citi

Mike Urban - Deutsche Bank

James West - Barclays

Ian Macpherson - Simmons

Matt Conlan - Wells Fargo

David Smith - Johnson Rice

Waqar Syed - Goldman Sachs

Alan Laws - BMO Capital Markets

Presentation

Operator

At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Noble Corp first quarter 2012 earnings call. (Operator Instructions) I would now like to introduce Mr. Jeff Chastain, Vice President of Investor Relations. Mr. Chastain, you may begin your conference.

Jeff Chastain

I'd like to welcome everyone to the Noble Corporation's first quarter 2012 earnings call. A copy of the company's earnings report issued last evening along with the supporting statements and schedules can be found on the Noble website at noblecorp.com.

Also I'd like to once again use this opportunity to remind you that members of the executive management of Noble will host an Analyst Day on Thursday, May the 24th. The event which will begin with a reception on the evening of May 23 will cover strategic, financial, operations and marketing discussions and will include a tour of the company's subsea control center in North Houston. Complete details on the event can be found at the home page of the Noble website. We look forward to seeing you in May.

Before I turn the call over to David, I'd like to remind everyone once again that any statements we make about our plans, expectations, estimates, predictions or similar expressions for the future, including those concerning the drilling business, market outlook and industry fundamentals; financial performance, operating results, fleet condition, performance and downtime; also tax rate, spending guidance, backlog, dayrates, contract opportunities, tenders, announcements, commitments and extension; letters of intent and finally growth opportunities, newbuild delivery costs and dates; and plans and objectives of management for future operations. These are all forward-looking statements and are 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.

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 and an associated reconciliation on the website.

I'll now turn the call over to David Williams.

David Williams

Thanks, Jeff. Good morning and welcome to everybody. Joining with me today in Geneva in addition to Jeff are James MacLennan, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Roger Hunt, our Senior Vice President of Marketing and Contracts.

I plan to make just a few opening comments covering some of the things that we've accomplished so far in 2012, and I'll be followed by James, who will give you a rundown on the first quarter financial performance. Roger, then will give us some commentary on the excellent offshore drilling business climate and I'll then offer some closing thoughts before we begin to take your questions.

We've experienced an excellent start to 2012 with some achievements having positive long-term implications for the company. Several of these achievements occurred late in the quarter or into the month of April, so let me quickly note some of the more meaningful highlights.

We commenced operations on the Noble Bully I and the Noble Bully II, two of eight new ultra-deepwater drillships that will be added to the fleet before the end of 2014. Bully I began its five-year contract in U.S. Gulf of Mexico in late March and Bully II began its 10-year contract all through Brazil in early April. In addition, the ultra-deepwater drillship Noble Globetrotter I arrived in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to begin final testing and commissioning before commencing its 10-year contract currently expected later this month.

Our remaining newbuild projects comprised of five ultra-deepwater drillships and six higher specification jackups are progressing on schedule in the three shipyards where they are currently being built. Collectively, these 14 premium asset additions are driving an impressive earnings and growth profile that begins this year.

Our marketing effort so far in 2012, that resulted in a significant position of the floating rig fleet availability being committed to new contracts. We secured contracts on the deepwater semisubmersibles Noble Homer Ferrington, Noble Max Smith, Noble Amos Runner and the Noble Jim Day, which recently signed an estimated 45-day contract at $605,000 a day, further evidence of a tight supply and demand fundamentals that exist in today's market.

Our contracting successes were not limited only to the floating rigs, several contracts were secured for our jackups in Mexico, the Middle East and the North Sea, where Noble continues to push the leading edge dayrate per standard units.

Furthermore, I'm delighted to announce an LOI on our first of six JU3000N higher specification jackups covering 80 months of operations in the North Sea at a dayrate of $230,000 per day. This first unit is expected to be delivered early in 2013 and should commence operations following acceptance testing and mobilization some time in the second quarter 2013, depending on the timing of heavy lift ship.

As of March 31, our contract backlog which gives us revenue visibility out into the year 2023 was at $14.5 billion, up from $13.7 billion at the end of 2011. As we close the first quarter of 2012, 77% of the available days remaining in 2012 in the floating fleet were committed to contracts some 74% in 2013 while our jackup fleet had 75% of the available days remaining in 2012 committed to contracts with 42% committed in 2013.

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