Ultra-Deepwater Drives Noble Higher

The falling price of oil this spring hasn't put a damper on drilling rig owners, and Noble (NYS: NE) has shown that it's starting to pile up profits.

In the second quarter, which the company reported yesterday, revenue rose 43.1% to $898.9 million and net income more than tripled to $159.8 million, or $0.63 per share. This was also a big increase from the $0.47 per-share profit the company reported in the first quarter of the year as well.

It should be no surprise that ultra-deepwater drilling is driving the growth with the addition of three new rigs to the fleet. Ultra-deepwater now accounts for 33% of revenue and there are another five rigs under contract.

Operationally, the company appears to be hitting on all cylinders and will likely continue to in the future. Seventy-nine percent of the floating rig fleet and 84% of the jackup fleet are under contract for the remainder of 2012, and 80% of the floating rig fleet days are committed for 2013.

Over at competitor Diamond Offshore (NYS: DO) , revenue fell 17% to $738.2 million, partially because of the sale of five rigs. The company reported $201.5 million, or $1.45 per share, in net income, easily outpacing estimates.

Deepwater is still hot
There doesn't appear to be any slowdown of momentum in the ultra-deepwater segment. Transocean (NYS: RIG) announced a $595,000-per-day contract yesterday and Diamond Offshore signed a contract worth $490,000 per day for a rig that is currently under construction.

Seadrill (NYS: SDRL) and Ocean Rig (NAS: ORIG) are even more leveraged in the ultra-deepwater space and should post strong results this quarter as well. Noble has shown that results are improving for ultra-deepwater and I think the trend will continue if oil doesn't collapse. The other advantage is that ultra-deepwater drilling contracts are normally much longer than shallow-water deals, giving investors some earnings security.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiummanages an account that owns shares of SeaDrill. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdingsor follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw.The Motley Fool owns shares of Transocean and Seadrill. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Seadrill. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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