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Noble Corporation: No News Is Not Good News - August Fleet Status Report

  • NE did not secure any new contracts in the past month.
  • NE is well-managed, well-contracted, with reasonable debt and no new-builds to finance.
  • Price capitulations has not occurred; while NE stock is down, there is no compelling reason to buy today.

On August 20, Noble Corp (NYSE:NE) released the Company's August Fleet Status Report. Unfortunately for both the Company and the industry no new contracts were signed. In what has become the norm, no new contracts of significance are being let for floaters. A very few, very inexpensive contracts are being signed for jackups.

As I've said before, NE is probably the best risk-adjusted play in the underwater driller sector. Unfortunately, that is like saying 'this house is best in Mosul'. To reiterate, NE has an excellent, seasoned management team. The Company has no rigs under construction, no material capital payments to make and no short-term material debt payments to fund. The Company is well contracted and should profitable through 2016. NE even pays a dividend that, due to a very depressed stock price, is sky high (12.4% yield).

Last week oil dipped below $40 per barrel. For the first time, there is serious speculation regarding the dividends of blue chip firms such as Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A). While I think both of those firms will defend their dividends, the fact that a discussion is occurring is significant.

Is this a buying opportunity. Ironically, I don't think we have reached the capitulation stage for major drillers like NE and Transocean (NYSE:RIG). Seadrill (NYSE:SDRL) is getting closer, but is also much riskier. However, given how much the situation has deteriorated in the past month (no new contracts, the short and medium term deteriorating due to oil prices, Iran deal, and the accompanying increased oil output, likely to go forward), the stocks are not as cheap as they should be (NE fell 4.45% last week).