ZUG, Switzerland, Jan. 25, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Noble Corporation (NYSE: NE) today reported fourth quarter 2011 earnings of $127 million, or $0.50 per diluted share, compared to $135 million, or $0.53 per diluted share, for the third quarter of 2011. Earnings for the fourth quarter 2010 totaled $99 million, or $0.39 per diluted share. Contract drilling services revenues for the fourth quarter of 2011 were $720 million compared to $705 million in the third quarter of 2011 and $614 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Earnings for the full year 2011 totaled $371 million, or $1.46 per diluted share, on contract drilling services revenues of $2.6 billion. The results compared to earnings of $773 million, or $3.02 per diluted share on contract drilling services revenues of$2.7 billion in 2010.
"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.
While we continue to work on our initiatives to mitigate fleet downtime, some of our semisubmersibles and drillships again experienced unacceptable levels of non-productive time, resulting in lower than expected revenues in the fourth quarter and unfavorably impacting operating costs, which hampered our margins. Reducing fleet downtime is a Company-wide focus as we begin 2012," noted Williams.
Contract drilling services revenues for the fourth quarter 2011 of $720 million improved 2 percent from the third quarter 2011 and 17 percent from the fourth quarter 2010. Contract drilling margin for the fourth quarter 2011 was approximately 47 percent, compared to 49 percent and 46 percent in the third quarter of 2011 and fourth quarter of 2010, respectively. The Company's revenues and operating margins over the past year were, in part, negatively impacted by the drilling moratorium and reduced pace of well permitting in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico that followed the Macondo incident.
Net cash from operating activities was $285 million in the fourth quarter 2011 and $759 million for full year 2011. Capital expenditures in the fourth quarter 2011 totaled $652 million, including $390 million (excluding capitalized interest) related to the Company's fleet expansion program. For the year, capital expenditures amounted to $2.6 billion, including $1.7 billion(excluding capitalized interest) associated with the fleet expansion program. Debt as a percentage of total capitalization increased slightly to approximately 33 percent at December 31, 2011, from approximately 32 percent at the end of the third quarter 2011.
At year-end 2011, approximately 68 percent of the Company's available rig operating days were committed for 2012, including 69 percent of the floating rig days and 72 percent of the jackup fleet days.
In the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, deepwater drilling activity remained robust as operators continued to initiate drilling programs slowed by the well permitting process. Short- and long-term requirements of operators are increasingly apparent, as evidenced by the recent contract award for the ultra-deepwater semisubmersible rig Noble Jim Day covering three-years at a dayrate of $530,000, excluding a 15 percent bonus opportunity. The contract is expected to commence in early 2013. Approximately 10 months of the operating days that remain open on the rig in 2012 are expected to be largely committed to short-term operator requirements. Also, the ultra-deepwater drillship Noble Bully I commenced client acceptance and testing procedures during the fourth quarter of 2011, with an expected date for completion and contract commencement of February 2012.
In Mexico, utilization of the Company's jackup rig fleet improved to 84 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. Contract awards were secured for the jackups Noble Eddie Paul , Noble Bill Jennings and Noble Leonard Jones covering contract durations ranging from 1,068 days to 1,406 days. Dayrates for each rig improved to $112,000 from $100,000 previously. Also, the Company's deepwater semisubmersible rig Noble Max Smith completed a multi-year drilling assignment in December 2011and is currently mobilizing to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to complete maintenance and certifications. Operator interest for the rig remains strong.
In the North Sea, the Company's jackup rig fleet utilization remained at 100 percent in the fourth quarter and customers aggressively moved to secure rig commitments through 2012 and into 2013. The Company currently has four of its eight jackup rigs committed into 2013, with the remaining units committed to late 2012. Recently, the jackup Noble Byron Welliverwas awarded a one-year contract at a dayrate of $122,000, up from a previous dayrate of $91,000. The rig is now committed until July 2013. In the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, the semisubmersible rig Noble Paul Romano began an estimated six-month contract, before options, following the mobilization of the rig from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Noble now has two deepwater semisubmersibles in the region, which is expected to offer additional contract opportunities as drilling results confirm compelling hydrocarbon prospects.
The Company's jackup rig fleet in the Middle East and India recorded utilization of 89 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 83 percent in the previous quarter in 2011. The jackup rigs Noble Gene House and Noble Joe Beall returned to active status in the quarter, with each rig commencing a three-year contract with Saudi Aramco. Also, the jackup rig Noble Charles Copeland was awarded a three-year contract from Saudi Aramco at a dayrate of $95,000. The contract is expected to commence in July 2012. The Company now has five jackup rigs under contract with Saudi Aramco.
In closing, Williams commented, "As we enter 2012, Noble has a number of reasons to be optimistic. Our fleet transformation program is providing tangible results, with the initial three ultra-deepwater drillships expected to meaningfully contribute to operating results this year. Also, the direct negative fallout from the Macondo incident is largely behind us, and all of our active U.S. Gulf of Mexico-based semisubmersibles start the year at their full operating dayrates. In spite of continued global macroeconomic uncertainty, our industry continues to display signs of cyclical improvement, especially in the deepwater sector, where operator needs are building in multiple regions, supported by strong geologic success, stable crude oil prices, a growing interest in frontier locations, and larger exploration and production spending budgets. We are in a position in 2012 to benefit from this recovery, with available rig days to offer our clients on several deepwater units, including the Noble Jim Day,Noble Max Smith, Noble Amos Runner, Noble Paul Romano and Noble Homer Ferrington.
The Company remains focused on strong execution in our fleet expansion program and on several strategic initiatives, including expansion into key regions, improved revenue efficiency through lower fleet downtime and completion of our non-core fleet evaluation process. We believe that Noble is well positioned to drive long-term, sustainable value for our shareholders and unparalleled service, safety and operational integrity for our customers."
Noble is a leading offshore drilling contractor for the oil and gas industry. Noble performs, through its subsidiaries, contract drilling services with a fleet of 79 offshore drilling units (including five ultra-deepwater rigs and six jackup drilling rigs currently under construction), located worldwide, including in the Middle East, India, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, Brazil, West Africa and Asian Pacific. Noble's shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "NE". Additional information on Noble Corporation is available on the Company's Web site athttp://www.noblecorp.com.