Noble Corp Earnings: Second Straight Quarter of Increasing Profit

S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY) component Noble Corporation (NYSE:NE) reported its results for the fourth quarter. Noble is a contract driller of oil and natural gas wells. It provides customers in the oil and gas industry with offshore drilling services and engineering and consulting services.

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Noble Earnings Cheat Sheet for the Fourth Quarter

Results: Net income for the oil and gas drilling and exploration company rose to $127 million (50 cents per share) vs. $98.8 million (39 cents per share) in the same quarter a year earlier. This marks a rise of 28.6% from the year earlier quarter.

Revenue: Rose 16.7% to $751 million from the year earlier quarter.

Actual vs. Wall St. Expectations: NE fell short of the mean analyst estimate of 53 cents per share. It fell short of the average revenue estimate of $776 million.

Quoting Management: “During the fourth quarter, we continued to make progress in our newbuild program, with two more of our ultra-deepwater drillships, the Noble Bully II and Noble Globetrotter I, departing shipyards, bringing to three the number of new technically advanced drillships scheduled to commence contracts during the first quarter of 2012,” said David W. Williams, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “These units, and the other five drillships and six high-specification jackup rigs currently under construction, are intended to enhance our competitive position and long-term revenue growth potential by equipping us to meet the most complex drilling needs of our customers. Also, improving industry activity allowed us to place several rigs back into active status in the quarter, including the semisubmersible Noble Paul Romano and jackup rigs Noble Gene House, Noble Joe Beall and Noble Dick Favor. From a backlog perspective, we added approximately $1 billion in contract commitments (net of backlog rolloff) during 2011, including over $840 million net in the fourth quarter of 2011, resulting in total contract backlog of $13.7 billion at December 31, 2011. Some of these contract awards allowed us to enter or enhance our presence in operating regions, such as Australia, the Mediterranean and Saudi Arabia, supporting our strategic objective of increased geographic diversification.”

Key Stats:

The company has now missed analyst estimates for the last four quarters. It fell short by 4 cents in the third quarter, by 10 cents in the second quarter, and by 2 cents in the first quarter.

Net income has dropped 30.5% year over year on average across the last five quarters. Performance was hurt by an 85.3% decline in the first quarter from the year earlier quarter.

The company’s revenue has now risen for two straight quarters. In the third quarter, revenue increased 20.5% to $737.9 million from the year earlier quarter.

Looking Forward: The outlook for the company’s results in the upcoming quarter is unfavorable. The average estimate for the first quarter of the next fiscal year is 74 cents per share, down from 92 cents ninety days ago. For the fiscal year, the average estimate has moved down from $1.53 a share to $1.34 over the last ninety days.

Competitors to Watch: Noble Corporation (N0L), Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG), Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. (NYSE:DO), Pride International, Inc. (NYSE:PDE), Hercules Offshore, Inc. (NASDAQ:HERO), ENSCO PLC (NYSE:ESV), Atwood Oceanics, Inc. (NYSE:ATW), Vantage Drilling Company (AMEX:VTG), Seahawk Drilling, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAWK), and Rowan Companies, Inc. (NYSE:RDC).

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(Company fundamentals provided by Xignite Financials. Earnings estimates provided by Zacks)

To contact the reporter on this story: Derek Hoffman at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at