SeaDrill Maintains Its Crown as Top Drilling Stock


With one fell swoop, SeaDrill (NYS: SDRL) took a year that's had some uncertainty and turned it into a success with a mind-blowing announcement. This morning the company said it had signed contracts for three rigs, two that are currently under construction, that will run for 19 rig years and have a potential value of $4 billion. My back-of-the-envelope calculations tell me that is a rate of $577,000 per day on average. Not bad in a year when oil prices have fallen.

No company has made as big a bet on ultra-deepwater drilling as SeaDrill. Sure, everyone is adding ultra-deepwater rigs, but SeaDrill is has become primarily an ultra-deepwater company, giving it an advantage on the market over rivals. Transocean (NYS: RIG) and Noble (NYS: NE) are much more diversified, providing a drag on their earnings. Ocean Rig (NAS: ORIG) is the only real pure play, but it's run by George Economou, a man who has never had the interest of shareholders at heart.

SeaDrill has a lot of debt on its balance sheet, but it has amassed that debt by building a fleet of ultra-deepwater ships that are in high demand today. The deal also expands ultra-deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, an area of extreme interest for drillers right now. The easy wells have mostly been tapped in the Gulf, and rigs are moving further and further offshore to find oil.

The company will soon report second-quarter earnings, and investors are expecting earnings per share to rise to $0.78 this quarter from $0.70 a year ago. For the next year, the stock is trading at a P/E of 11 and has an 8.4% dividend, which is one of the reasons I like the current price. Deals like this one just show how much growth and earnings potential the company has going forward.

SeaDrill will benefit indirectly if the price of oil rises, but it isn't one of the companies highlighted in our report "3 Stocks for $100 Oil." The report is free while it lasts.

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