Leading contract driller Noble Corporation 's NE fourth-quarter 2015 earnings of 52 cents per share came in below the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 60 cents. The bottom line, however, improved from the year-ago quarter earnings of 47 cents per share.
Total revenue in the quarter rose to $857.7 million from $804.7 million in the comparable quarter last year. The top line also beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $753.0 million. Contract Drilling Services contributed $837.1 million to total revenue, which reflects a year-over-year increase of 6.3%.
Full-year 2015 earnings of $2.59 per share missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.75 but were higher than the year-ago earnings of $2.22 per share.
Total revenue for 2015 increased to $3,352.5 million from $3,232.5 million in 2014. It also outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3,132.0 million.
Fourth-Quarter Operating Highlights
Net income from continuing operations was $126 million compared with $178 million in the third quarter of 2015. Total rig utilization increased to 83% from the year-earlier level of 82%. The overall average dayrate increased to $367,953 from $330,739 in the year-ago quarter.
The average dayrate for drillships of $672,972 was also substantially higher than $500,187 a year ago. Average capacity utilization, however, dipped to 99% from the year-ago level of 100%.
The average dayrate for the company's jackups was $145,283 compared with $184,482 in the year-ago quarter. Average capacity utilization fell to 82% from the year-ago level of 90%.
The average dayrate for semisubmersibles of $315,459 was lower than $352,515 a year ago. Average capacity utilization climbed to 67% from the year-ago level of 61%.
Overall total backlog at the end of the quarter was approximately $6.9 billion compared with $8.1 billion as of Sep 30, 2015. As of Dec 31, 2015, 68% of the company's available rig operating days were committed for 2016, including 57% of floating rig days and 81% of jackup rig days.
At the end of the reported quarter, the company had a cash balance of $512.2 million and long-term debt of $4,188.9 million, with debt-to-capitalization ratio of 36.1% (as against 37% in the preceding quarter).
At present, Noble Corp. carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks from the same sector are Cheniere Energy Partners LP. CQP , Braskem S.A. BAK and Enviva Partners, LP EVA . All these stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and appear more rewarding for the short term.