Noble Corp.’s (NE) first-quarter profit more than doubled, topping Wall Street expectations as the offshore driller’s contract dayrates increased.
Noble has been investing billions of dollars in fleet upgrades over the past year as worldwide drilling activity accelerates, including in the Gulf of Mexico, where producers were slow to regain their footing after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Noble on Wednesday said increased activity in the area has led to a shortage of available floating rigs, which improved dayrates in the region. The company also cited less downtime, especially among its floating rigs in the U.S. Gulf and off Brazil.
The company posted a profit of $120.2 million, or 47 cents a share, up from $54.5 million, or 21 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue jumped 38% to $797.7 million.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a profit of 40 cents a share with $797 million of revenue.
Revenue from contract drilling services, the main top-line contributor, grew 37%.
Noble’s contract backlog rose to $14.5 billion from $13.7 billion at the end of December.
The latest results have been somewhat overshadowed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which in February charged three Noble executives, including former Chief Executive Mark A. Jackson, with helping bribe Nigerian customs officials. The agency also charged James J. Ruehlen, director of Noble’s Nigerian subsidiary.
The company did not immediately address the civil allegations in its latest earnings report.
Shares closed at $36.63 Wednesday and were lightly traded after hours. The stock has climbed 21% this year.
-By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright © 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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