Energy Business

Transocean Woes Hammer Offshore Drillers

oil rig and tanker
Source: Thinkstock
When the world’s largest offshore driller sneezes, the entire industry gets a cold. That is what’s happening Thursday after Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG) said last night that it had stacked (mothballed) four of its offshore rigs that had previously been idled and was scrapping another four. The company will take a first-quarter charge of $300 million to $325 million for the scrapped rigs. Transocean had previously announced that it will scrap 12 other rigs.

The news hit Transocean’s shares hard this morning. Shares have tumbled about 6.5% since the opening bell and have dropped more than 22% in the year to date. Over the past 12 months, Transocean’s shares have lost nearly 65% of their value.

As bad as Transocean stock has performed, Seadrill Ltd. (NYSE: SDRL) has done even worse, losing nearly 73% in the past year. Seadrill has suspended its $4 per share annual dividend for which Yahoo! Finance still shows a dividend yield of nearly 44%, based on a share price of around $9.25. Transocean’s former $3 annual dividend yield has been lowered to $0.60 beginning in June.

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Offshore exploration for new oil and gas deposits has all but stopped as oil prices drift toward $50 a barrel for Brent crude. While a producing well in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico may have a cash cost of below $10 a barrel, drilling a new well anywhere offshore is extremely costly, and at the low crude prices in effect today, a reasonable internal rate of return on offshore projects is simply pushed too far into the future to justify spending the money now.

Other offshore drillers are faring just as poorly. Ensco PLC (NYSE: ESV) shares have dropped nearly 60% in the past year and, at a decline of around 31%, are the biggest losers so far in 2015. Ensco’s market cap of $4.87 billion ranks it second behind Transocean’s $5.17 billion market cap and just ahead of Seadrill’s $4.59 billion value. Ensco’s shares traded down about 4.7% in the noon hour Thursday at $20.72.

Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (NYSE: DO) is controlled by Loews Corp. (NYSE: L) and it too is struggling. The driller’s market cap is $3.76 billion, and since it pays no dividend of its own while Loews pays a dividend yield of just 0.6%, there is barely any reason to own the stock. Nearly 20% of the 64.4 million shares floated are short.

The fifth largest offshore driller is Britain’s Noble Corp. PLC (NYSE: NE), which has a market cap of $3.31 billion and has seen its share price drop almost 51% in the past 12 months. The stock traded down more than 5% in the noon hour Thursday, at $13.56 in a 52-week range of $13.15 to $30.29.

With the exception of Diamond Offshore, all these stocks have a 30-day average volume above 5 million shares, and both Transocean and Seadrill trade more than 12 million shares a day. These are not buy-and-hold numbers.

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