London-based offshore drilling contractor Noble Corporation reported a net loss attributable to the Company for the three months ended March 31, 2020 of $1.1 billion, on total revenues of $281 million.
First quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization totaled $91 million compared to $83 million in the fourth quarter, excluding the impact of the Noble Bully II contract buyout, while contract drilling margin improved to 40 percent from 36 percent over the period. The slight decrease in revenues, when compared to the adjusted fourth quarter result, was due largely to a decline in total fleet operating days and a modest increase in fleet downtime. Fewer available days in the first quarter, due to the retirement of the Noble Joe Beall, and fewer calendar days kept total fleet utilization flat at 77 percent when compared to the previous quarter.
Julie J. Robertson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Noble Corporation plc, noted, “Total fleet utilization and average daily revenues in the first quarter were largely unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2019, with limited impact from the significant dislocation experienced in the global oil and gas market.”
“The first quarter results were aided by an exceptional effort to manage our global operation in the face of mounting risks and uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort, which included professionals throughout our Operations, HSE, Human Resources and Supply Chain disciplines, and many among our offshore personnel who agreed to extended crew rotation schedules, demonstrates the commitment and dedication that characterizes the entire Noble organization.”

The Company’s 12 floating rigs achieved utilization of 58 percent in the first quarter compared to 60 percent in the fourth quarter. Excluding three cold stacked units, utilization in the first and fourth quarters was 78 percent and 80 percent, respectively. In addition to the effect of fewer calendar days in the first quarter, there was a four percent decline in operating days when compared to the fourth quarter, due largely to reduced days for the drillship Noble Bully II, which spent the quarter mobilizing to a new stacking location. Partially offsetting the decline in operating days was a full quarter of operations on the Noble Don Taylor offshore Guyana. At the conclusion of the first quarter, seven of the Company’s nine actively marketed rigs were contracted. In April, operations on the Noble Tom Madden offshore Guyana were placed on standby for up to 90 days at a reduced dayrate.
The Company’s 13 jackup rigs (before the retirement of the Noble Joe Beall) experienced marginally fewer operating days when compared to the fourth quarter. A reduction in operating days on each of the rigs Noble Joe Beall, Noble Regina Allen, Noble Johnny Whitstine and Noble Hans Deul, was largely offset by increased activity on the Noble Tom Prosser, Noble Houston Colbert and Noble Joe Knight. Due to the retirement of the Noble Joe Beall and fewer calendar days in the quarter, utilization finished the first quarter at 94 percent compared to 93 percent in the fourth quarter. During the first quarter, the Noble Hans Deuland Noble Sam Turnercompleted contracts in the UK North Sea and have been warm stacked. Following the conclusion of the quarter, the Noble Sam Hartley and Noble Houston Colbert were warm stacked after completing work assignments in April 2020 and operations on the Noble Tom Prosser offshore Australia were placed on standby at a reduced dayrate for up to 365 days.
The jackup rig Noble Scott Marks, located offshore Saudi Arabia, will be suspended at the request of its client.
Commenting on the state of the offshore drilling industry, Ms. Robertson added, “The reduction in demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the precipitous escalation in global crude oil supplies have placed the oil and gas industry in a state of heightened duress. The consequences of this combination of detrimental events are increasingly visible, and the offshore drilling industry will endure another period of depressed business activity for a duration of time that remains difficult to forecast.”
(Source: Noble Corporation – Image: Noble Sam Turner on tow in Rotterdam/Kees Torn)