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Diamond Offshore 2nd-Quarter Profit Drops 24% Amid Lower Revenue

By Victoria Stilwell Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc.'s (DO) second-quarter profit fell 24% as the contract driller reported lower utilization rates in all of its floaters and revenue declined. The company's earnings have been unsteady in recent quarters as the offshore-drilling sector has had a challenging time recovering from 2010's Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. authorities in February 2011 began approving deep-water drilling programs, which now face heightened scrutiny. Moody's Investors Service in June upgraded Diamond Offshore by one notch to A3, saying it has a strong market position with a large offshore-drilling fleet. The ratings firm said Diamond Offshore will have a competitive ultra-deepwater- and deepwater-drilling-rig fleet upon completion of its new drill ships. Diamond Offshore, which is majority owned by Loews Corp. (L), reported earnings of $201.5 million, or $1.45 a share, down from $266.6 million, or $1.92 a share, a year earlier. The latest period included a 36-cent per-share gain related to the sale of five jack-up rigs. Revenue fell 17% to $738.2 million. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters most recently projected earnings of 90 cents a share on revenue of $735 million. Operating margins shrank to 34.8% from 41.3%. Contract drilling expenses rose 4.4%. Day rates and utilization results were down for the company's midwater floaters. Rates slid 1.1% while utilization fell to 66% compared with 77%. For ultra-deepwater floaters, day rates were up 4.1% and utilization decreased to 89% from 92% a year earlier. For deepwater floaters, day rates dropped 12% and utilization fell to 83% from 98%. Both types of vessels usually operate in deeper water than conventional drilling platforms. The company also unveiled a special quarterly divided of 75 cents a share, along with a regular quarterly dividend of 12.5 cents a share, both in line with recent quarters. Loews is expected to report its second-quarter results July 30. Shares of Diamond Offshore closed Wednesday at $63.87 and were inactive in premarket trade. The stock is up 16% year-to-date. Write to Victoria Stilwell at Subscribe to WSJ:

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