Energy Business

Offshore Driller Noble Files for Bankruptcy

London-based offshore drilling contractor Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE) announced Friday that the company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. The company said it had reached an agreement with two ad-hoc groups that are the largest holders of Noble’s outstanding debt.

Note that Noble Corp. is not related to Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL), the oil & gas production company recently acquired by Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX).

Under the terms of the agreement, some $3.4 billion of the company’s debt will be canceled and exchanged for new equity. The bondholders have also agreed to invest $200 million in new second-lien notes. Noble has received $675 million in a new revolving credit facility to use as debtor-in-possession financing.

The company said it expects to file and confirm a reorganization plan with the court by this fall and emerge from Chapter 11 protection before the end of the year.

In its first-quarter earnings report, filed in May, Noble recorded a non-cash impairment charge of $1.1 billion related to four of the company’s fleet of 25 (two floaters and two semisubmersibles), citing the effects on the global economy of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s net loss per share totaled $4.25 in the quarter.

Offshore drilling contractors have had a particularly difficult time since their share prices posted recent highs last fall. Diamond Offshore stock had lost about 95% of its value since last September by the time the company filed for bankruptcy in late April. Noble’s stock has dropped by more than 80% since last year and Transocean Inc. (NYSE: RIG) has seen its share price drop by more than 50% in the same period.

In its court filing, Noble estimates between 5,000 and 10,000 creditors and two owners with more than 5% of voting power: Firefly Value Partners LP owns 9.31% and Vanguard owns 5.80% of the company’s voting stock. Noble’s seven largest creditors have about $4.3 billion in unsecured claims.

As of Thursday’s close, Noble’s shares traded at about $0.21 in a 52-week range of $0.12 to $2.15.

Switzerland-based Transocean traded down about 2% in the early afternoon Friday at $2.04 in a 52-week range of $0.76 to $7.28. Transocean’s market cap is around $1.5 billion.

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