Ensco PLC Class A Earnings Call Insights: Rig Demand and International Rate Outlook

Ensco PLC Class A (NYSE:ESV) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Rig Demand

David Wilson – Howard Weil Inc.: Dan with regard to the recent newbuild jackup announcement and the fact that it was not a 130 series type design, what should we read into that as far as the demand for that type of rig meaning the 130? Is there not enough demand for those types of rigs? Is the market already saturated with those or is it just going to be too costly of an endeavor? I’m just wondering, how should we read the tea leaves on that one?

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Daniel W. Rabun – Chairman, President and CEO: Yeah, I don’t think you should read too much into ENSCO 110. It was a rig already being built by KFELS on speculation and they – it all predict to us – seemed like it was a real good price, good terms and so we just acted opportunistically with respect to that. So I wouldn’t read too much into it. On ENSCO 130, I think we’ve been pretty consistent with that. We’re going to try to get a customer lined up for that and we continue to actively market that and as soon as we can find a customer, we’ll probably make an investment decision.

David Wilson – Howard Weil Inc.: Then just unrelated follow-up on the $2 billion share repurchase program. It seems like maybe you’ve guys been leaning more to the dividend side of returning cash to shareholders, but now there’s this program that you hope to get in place. Does this mean that you are more or less inclined on future dividend increases or just you wanted some flexibility with the share buyback?

Daniel W. Rabun – Chairman, President and CEO: Under U.K. law, we have to have an authorization, that’s not like under U.S. law, so we want to have the flexibility to consider all our alternatives, so without having an authorization, the flexibility to consider your options.

International Rate Outlook

Collin Gerry – Raymond James: I had a quick one. You opened up with your market commentary regarding the Gulf of Mexico and I mean strong rates, at 130,000 a day, that market’s just caught fire, no pun intended or not to use a bad phrase, but could we see upside to that number? I mean just given where international rates are, do you still see that moving up and what’s it going to take to keep it moving a little bit higher?

Kevin C. Robert – SVP, Marketing: This is Kevin. Very limited rig supply. We don’t see really that changing and customer demand continues to be strong terms, I think we’ll see increase and yes, it will continue to be a tight market.

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Collin Gerry – Raymond James: That’s kind of the outlook we see and you mentioned a tight market, there’s some competitive or there’s a new competitor that got some rigs from an existing contractor and obviously it’s been one of your competitors that’s maybe looking to part with some its legacy jackup fleets. I guess, I’m wondering, have you seen any change in the competitive landscape from those two guys, how are they bidding, how are they competing with you guys, are they moving their rigs, are some of those coming to the Gulf of Mexico or is it pretty much status quo?

Kevin C. Robert – SVP, Marketing: I can’t comment on other competitors but I can say that the demand for our rigs is increasing. We’ve got multiple clients asking for every rig as a result, that’s why my comments, that we see strong demand for our rigs in a favorable environment well into 2014 on the jackup market.

Daniel W. Rabun – Chairman, President and CEO: One thing to remember on that jackup market, you cannot readily get insurance, wind storm insurance and certain drilling contractors have loan covenants that prohibit them from not having insurance on their rigs. So, it really creates a real limitation to how many rigs can come into the market to address that market. So, we don’t see the rig supply changing much, if not going the other direction quite frankly.