Profits Fall at Diamond Offshore, Rig Utilization Significantly Lower [REPORT]

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July 20, 2012

Diamond-offshore-logo(Dow Jones) Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc.’s (DO) second-quarter profit fell 24% as the contract driller reported lower utilization rates in all of its floaters and revenue declined.

The company’s earnings have been unsteady in recent quarters as the offshore-drilling sector has had a challenging time recovering from 2010’s Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. authorities in February 2011 began approving deep-water drilling programs, which now face heightened scrutiny.

Moody’s Investors Service in June upgraded Diamond Offshore by one notch to A3, saying it has a strong market position with a large offshore-drilling fleet. The ratings firm said Diamond Offshore will have a competitive ultra-deepwater- and deepwater-drilling-rig fleet upon completion of its new drill ships.

Diamond Offshore, which is majority owned by Loews Corp. (L), reported earnings of $201.5 million, or $1.45 a share, down from $266.6 million, or $1.92 a share, a year earlier. The latest period included a 36-cent per-share gain related to the sale of five jack-up rigs.

Revenue fell 17% to $738.2 million. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters most recently projected earnings of 90 cents a share on revenue of $735 million.

Operating margins shrank to 34.8% from 41.3%. Contract drilling expenses rose 4.4%.

Day rates and utilization results were down for the company’s midwater floaters. Rates slid 1.1% while utilization fell to 66% compared with 77%.

For ultra-deepwater floaters, day rates were up 4.1% and utilization decreased to 89% from 92% a year earlier.

For deepwater floaters, day rates dropped 12% and utilization fell to 83% from 98%. Both types of vessels usually operate in deeper water than conventional drilling platforms.

The company also unveiled a special quarterly divided of 75 cents a share, along with a regular quarterly dividend of 12.5 cents a share, both in line with recent quarters.

Loews is expected to report its second-quarter results July 30.

Shares of Diamond Offshore closed Wednesday at $63.87 and were inactive in premarket trade. The stock is up 16% year-to-date.

 – Victoria Stilwell, Dow Jones Newswires

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