Noble Reports Quarterly And Full Year 2019 Results

(Noble, 19.Feb.2020) — Noble Corporation plc reported a net loss attributable to the Company for the three months ended December 31, 2019 (fourth quarter) of $33 million, or $0.13 per diluted share, on total revenues of $454 million. Results for the fourth quarter included net favorable items totaling $50 million, or $0.20 per diluted share, as follows:

— Contract drilling services revenues totaling $167 million ($80 million net of associated costs, taxes and noncontrolling interests, or $0.32 per diluted share) resulting from the previously announced Noble Bully II contract buyout with Royal Dutch Shell plc (Shell).

— Non-cash loss on impairment, net of taxes, totaling $17 million, or $0.07 per diluted share, resulting from the impairment of the semisubmersible Noble Paul Romano and certain capital spares.

— Net expense of $13 million, or $0.05 per diluted share, relating to various non-cash discrete tax items.

Excluding the impact of the aforementioned items, Noble Corporation plc generated an adjusted net loss attributable to the Company for the three months ended December 31, 2019 of $83 million, or $0.33 per diluted share, on total revenues of $287 million.

HIGHLIGHTS AND RECENT DEVELOPMENTS:

– Expanded presence and positioning in the Guyana-Suriname basin following a unique, Commercial Enabling Agreement (CEA) with ExxonMobil

– Noble Sam Croft added to CEA with one-year contract award

– 2019 operating days improved 18 percent with fleet uptime at 97 percent

– Fourth quarter contract drilling services revenue totaled $441 million, inclusive of Noble Bully II contract buyout of $167 million

– Regional operations to expand into Trinidad and Tobago following a contract award for the Noble Regina Allen

For the twelve months ended December 31, 2019, Noble Corporation plc reported a net loss attributable to the Company of $701 million, or $2.81 per diluted share, of which a loss of $4 million, or $0.02 per diluted share, is related to discontinued operations. Total revenues for the year reached $1.3 billion. Results for 2019 included net unfavorable items totaling $323 million, or $1.29 per diluted share, net of tax and noncontrolling interests, including the above mentioned fourth quarter items, in addition to previously announced asset impairments, the legal contingency expense for the Paragon litigation matter, gain on debt extinguishments and discrete tax items recognized in the first three quarters. After consideration of these net unfavorable items, Noble Corporation plc generated an adjusted net loss from continuing operations attributable to the Company for the twelve months ended December 31, 2019, of $374 million, or $1.50 per diluted share, with total revenues of $1.1 billion.

A Non-GAAP supporting schedule is included with the statements and schedules attached to this press release and can also be found at www.noblecorp.com. It provides a reconciliation for revenues, net loss, income tax and diluted earnings per share for the fourth quarter and full year of 2019, and for the fourth quarter and full year of 2018.

Addressing the fourth quarter and full year performance, Julie J. Robertson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Noble Corporation plc, noted, “We closed another quarter with strong operational performance, extending our record for consistency that remains among the best in our industry. Our fleet uptime in the fourth quarter exceeded 97 percent, while quarterly contract drilling revenues and EBITDA were well ahead of our expectations.

“From an annual perspective, fleet operating days improved 18 percent when compared to 2018, due in part to the commencement of operations on two recently acquired newbuild jackups, one of which, the Noble Joe Knight, began its multi-year contract in the Middle East during October. Also, we completed several advantageous rig mobilizations over the year, two of which allowed us to expand our footprint in the prolific Guyana-Suriname basin. These rig moves have further enhanced our global fleet positioning as we evaluate opportunities across our premium floating and jackup fleets.”

Contract drilling services revenues for the fourth quarter totaled $441 million, including $167 million related to the Noble Bully II contract buyout with Shell. Excluding revenues from the buyout, contract drilling services revenues for the fourth quarter would have been $274 million compared to $259 million in the preceding quarter of 2019. The six percent improvement in revenues was due largely to higher operating days in the jackup rig fleet, which improved 11 percent compared to the previous quarter, increased mobilization revenues, and higher average dayrates in the floating rig fleet. These items were partially offset by reduced operating days for the Noble Bully II.  

Contract drilling service costs in the fourth quarter totaled $182 million, including costs of $7 million relating to the Noble Bully II contract buyout. Excluding the buyout costs, adjusted contract drilling service costs would have been $175 million or relatively flat when compared to $176 million in the preceding quarter.  

Excluding the impact of the Noble Bully II buyout, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) in the fourth quarter reached $83 million compared to $68 million in the preceding quarter, while contract drilling margin improved to 36 percent from 32 percent over the same period of comparison.

Operating Highlights

Fourth quarter utilization across the Company’s 12 floating rigs was 60 percent compared to 63 percent in the preceding quarter. Excluding three cold-stacked rigs, active floating utilization was 80 percent compared to 83 percent over the same period of comparison, with the modest decline due to a reduction in operating days on the Noble Bully II following the previously noted contract buyout. With regard to the Noble Bully II, the Company recognized 63 operating days and $14 million of contract drilling revenues in the fourth quarter due to a later-than-expected closing of the contract buyout with Shell. Average daily revenues, adjusted for the contract buyout, improved to $199,000 in the fourth quarter compared to $190,000 in the preceding quarter, with higher dayrates experienced for the Noble Don Taylor, Noble Sam Croft and the Noble Globetrotter II, which benefitted from enhanced daily revenues with the utilization of its managed pressure drilling system.

The previously reported CEA with ExxonMobil enhances the Company’s presence in the Guyana-Suriname basin, with multi-year contract visibility, strong fleet utilization, and important economies of scale and logistical savings. Also, the agreement includes an attractive commercial model and deepens Noble’s relationship with a valued client, while positioning the Company for the possibility of further expansion in the basin. With regard to expansion, the Company announced that the Noble Sam Croft will be added to the CEA with a one-year contract award that is expected to commence in August 2020, following the conclusion of the rig’s current drilling assignment offshore Suriname. The addition of the Noble Sam Croft increases the total rig years awarded under the CEA to 4.5, with six additional years dependent on future development decisions and government approvals. At December 31, 2019, seven of the Company’s nine active floating rigs remained under contract.

The Company’s 13-rig jackup fleet experienced an 11 percent increase in operating days during the fourth quarter, which improved utilization in the quarter to 93 percent compared to 89 percent in the third quarter. The improvement in operating days followed the commencement of operations on the Noble Joe Knight offshore Saudi Arabia and the Noble Houston Colbert in the UK North Sea, and a full quarter of operations on the Noble Scott Marks following the completion of a regulatory program during the third quarter. These events were partially offset by fewer operating days on the Noble Tom Prosser due to the rig’s relocation to a new drilling location offshore Australia. In December 2019, the Noble Regina Allen was awarded a contract for operations offshore Trinidad and Tobago, with contract commencement during the second half of 2020. Following the recent exercise of an option well, the expected contract duration has increased to 190 days. 

At December 31, 2019, all 13 of the Company’s jackup rigs remained under contract. An estimated 58 percent of the available jackup fleet rig days in 2020 were committed to contracts, or 62 percent, excluding the Noble Joe Beall, which the Company plans to dispose of at the completion of its current contract.

Backlog, Capital and Balance Sheet

At December 31, 2019, the Company’s estimated revenue backlog totaled approximately $1.5 billion and reflects a reduction of $282 million following the Noble Bully II contract buyout. Approximately $833 million of the backlog was associated with the floating rig fleet and $622 million with the jackup fleet. An estimated $776 million of the revenue backlog is attributable to the year 2020. The 4.5 years of contract term awarded under the CEA with ExxonMobil are subject to periodically adjusted market dayrates, and are excluded from the revenue backlog, but would contribute an estimated $312 million if an illustrative dayrate of $200,000 and discount, net of performance bonus, of 5% were applied to the term.

Capital expenditures for the fourth quarter and full year of 2019 were $48 million and $253 million, respectively, with the full year total excluding the $54 million seller-financed portion of the Noble Joe Knight purchase price. Expenditures for the full year were comprised of $75 million for fleet maintenance, $138 million for major projects, including rig reactivations and subsea spares, $30 million for the purchase of the Noble Joe Knight, and $10 million of capitalized interest.  

A strong liquidity position remains one of the Company’s key priorities. At December 31, 2019, the Company maintained the ability to borrow up to an additional $660 million under the Company’s 2017 Credit Facility.

During December 2019, the Company used cash on hand to repay $100 million of borrowings on the 2017 Credit Facility. Subsequently, the Company terminated its 2015 Credit Facility following the repayment of $300 million of borrowings outstanding, utilizing borrowing capacity available on its 2017 Credit Facility to do so. At December 31, 2019, borrowings outstanding on the 2017 Credit Facility were $335 million.

Outlook

In closing, Ms. Robertson noted, “Offshore drilling activity continued to trend favorably during 2019 with the contracted floating and jackup rig counts, when compared to measures at December 2018, improving seven percent and 12 percent, respectively. As global fleet utilization rose through the year, meaningful dayrate appreciation was experienced across the industry’s active rig fleet. As we enter 2020, early concerns for crude oil demand, due largely to the Coronavirus, have led to a decline in oil prices. Although we currently see no evidence of our customers altering their spending plans, we recognize the heightened risk for reduced spending should the weakness persist.

At present, the prospects for further industry gains are encouraging, With the exception of the UK North Sea, where some sluggishness is expected through the first half of 2020, opportunities for premium jackups remain healthy in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific Rim.  In the floating rig fleet, evidence continues to mount in support of a heightened interest in offshore oil and gas resources among the industry’s exploration and production companies, especially in regions such as Guyana, Suriname, Brazil and Mexico. These regions, as well as others in the Eastern Hemisphere, continue to demonstrate strong oil and gas resource potential, leading to incremental rig needs as exploration and development campaigns commence.”

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