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Hercules Offshore To Offer Debt, Stock To Repay Loan, Fund Rig Buy

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Hercules Offshore Inc. (HERO) unveiled plans to sell in a private placement $500 million of debt and offer 20 million shares of stock as the offshore-drilling company looks to repay all outstanding debt under its existing term loan and fund a new rig acquisition. Shares were down 2.4% at $4.96 after hours. Since the close, the stock was up 21% over the past three months. Hercules, which has racked up more than three years of losses, became the biggest rig contractor in the Gulf of Mexico's shallow waters when it closed on a deal in April to acquire the rigs of weakened rival Seahawk Drilling Inc. It said Tuesday it agreed to buy the offshore-drilling rig Ocean Columbia from a subsidiary of Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (DO) for $40 million in cash. It also entered into a $106-million, three-year drilling contract with Saudi Aramco for use of the rig. Hercules said it plans to spend an additional $45 million to repair and upgrade the rig as well as move it from the Gulf of Mexico to the Middle East. The company plans to acquire the rig in May and start its contract with Saudi Aramco in November. Hercules said it plans to sell 20 million shares, using 50% of the proceeds to pay off a term loan facility. The rest will go toward the Ocean Columbia acquisition, refurbishment and relocation. The company said it plans to sell up to $300 million in senior secured notes due 2017 and $200 million in senior notes due 2019, also to repay the term loan, and use the rest for general corporate purposes, including the Ocean Columbia project. In January, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raised its outlook on the company, saying it is benefiting from improving day rates and utilization of its jack-up rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. -By Ben Fox Rubin, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3108;

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