Noble 4Q Profit Jumps 29% As Gulf-Related Delays Recede

Noble's recently delivered drillship, BULLY 1, will be on a 5-year contract with Shell in the U.S. GoM

Noble Corp.’s (NE) fourth-quarter profit rose 29% as the offshore driller’s contract revenue improved.

Noble has been investing billions of dollars in fleet upgrades over the past year with an eye toward producers that are willing to pay more for newer vessels. Its results have also improved over a prior-year result hurt by the slow start energy producers had getting back to work in the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 Macondo well oil spill.

“The direct negative fallout from the Macondo incident is largely behind us, and all of our active U.S. Gulf of Mexico-based semisubmersibles start the year at their full operating dayrates,” Chairman and Chief Executive David W. Williams said Wednesday.

Noble posted a profit of $127 million, or 50 cents a share, up from $98.8 million, or 39 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 17% to $751 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a 50-cent per-share profit on $771 million of revenue.

Revenue from contract drilling services, the main top-line contributor, grew 17%.

Noble’s contract backlog rose $840 million to $13.7 billion at the end of December.

Shares closed at $34.79 and were lightly traded after hours. The stock has fallen 6.1% over the past year through Wednesday’s close.

-By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires