Noble Corporation reported 4Q 2007 earnings of $347.4 million, or $1.29 per diluted share, versus $199.7 million, or $0.74 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2006. Per-share earnings were up 74 percent from the fourth quarter of 2006 and up nine percent from the $1.18 per share reported for the third quarter of 2007. Earnings for the full year 2007 totaled $4.48 per diluted share compared with $2.66 per diluted share in 2006 (split adjusted).
The results for the 2007 fourth quarter include a net after-tax charge of $0.06 per share related to the previously reported fire aboard the drillship Noble Roger Eason and costs associated with the ongoing independent investigation of the Company's Nigerian operations, offset by an insurance recovery on our 2005 Hurricane claims.
"We delivered a strong finish to an outstanding year, with good revenue growth and earnings growth across all four quarters," said Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President David W. Williams. "At the same time, we are on track with our capital spending program and returned added value to our shareholders through our increased dividend and share repurchases."
Contract drilling services revenues for the 2007 fourth quarter were $761.1 million, up 50 percent from the year-earlier quarter. Contract drilling margin during the fourth quarter 2007 was 68 percent, generating $419.0 million in net cash provided by operating activities. Contract drilling services revenues for the full year were $2.7 billion and earnings were $1.2 billion for 2007, up 44 percent and 65 percent, respectively, from the full year 2006.
The Company invested $344.6 million in capital projects during the quarter, bringing the total for the year to $1.3 billion. Debt as a percentage of total capitalization declined to 15.4 percent at December 31, 2007, from approximately 16.4 percent at the end of the third quarter. In addition, Noble repurchased 1.4 million of the Company's ordinary shares during the fourth quarter 2007, at an average price per share of $52.05, for a total cost of $75.1 million. For the full year 2007, Noble repurchased 4.2 million ordinary shares at an average price per share of $42.31 for a total cost of $178.5 million.
At year end 2007
, approximately 81 percent of the Company's total rig operating days were committed for 2008 and approximately 40 percent were committed for 2009. During the quarter, Noble entered into contracts for two of the Company's Gulf of Mexico deepwater assets, including a one-year term contract for the Noble Paul Romano at $482,000 per day with Marathon, scheduled to begin January 2009, and a two-year term contract with LLOG on the Noble Lorris Bouzigard, scheduled to begin in May 2008, at $270,000 per day.
In international markets, the Company entered into contract extensions
for several of its North Sea jackup units, including the Noble Piet van Ede at $205,000 per day with Gaz de France for the latter half of 2008, a contract with Total for a 100-day well for the Noble Al White at $195,000 per day and a one-year extension for the Noble Julie Robertson with Venture North Sea Gas Ltd. at $198,000 per day expected to commence in the third quarter of 2008.
Following delivery and commissioning activities conducted during the fourth quarter 2007, the Noble Roger Lewis is now on location. This new high
-specification jackup drilling unit is the first of three such rigs being built for the Company. Noble is the leading supplier of premium jackups in the Middle East, with a fleet that now includes 15 drilling units.
Shipyard work was also completed during the fourth quarter 2007 on the Noble Paul Romano, which received mooring upgrades as part of the Company's NC-5(SM) mooring upgrade initiative. The Romano was returned to service on November 5, 2007. The final unit currently scheduled to receive these upgrades, the Noble Amos Runner, will enter the shipyard this week. It is anticipated that the Runner will return to service in the second quarter 2008.
"Our markets are strong and demand, particularly for deepwater assets, remains high," said Williams. "We have seven deepwater rigs with
contracts that roll over later this year or in 2009. Additionally, in the next two years we will bring online five new rigs
. These factors, along with our dedication to safety and operational excellence, position us well to take advantage of future opportunities while delivering value to our customers and shareholders."