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Diamond CEO: Adding Rigs 'Makes Sense' Though No Plans To Do So

By Ryan Dezember Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES HOUSTON -(Dow Jones)- Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (DO) Chief Executive Larry Dickerson said Thursday that although the company is considering adding new rigs to its fleet, it has no concrete plans to do so--unlike many of its competitors. "We think that continuing to add to our fleet via newbuilds makes a lot of sense," Dickerson said on a conference call to discuss the company's second-quarter earnings. "But I can't say that we have a plan that will yield X number in so much time." Houston-based Diamond, which is majority-owned by Loews Corp. (L), posted a second-quarter profit of $266.6 million, or $1.92 a share, up from $224.4 million, or $1.61 a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 8.1% to $889.5 million. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters most recently forecast earnings of $1.92 a share on revenue of $870 million. Operating margin narrowed to 41.3% from 42% as operating expenses increased 9.5%. Dickerson said Diamond saw "an almost all-time low amount of downtime within our fleet" during the quarter, though cautioned that scheduled maintenance would reduce the number of earning days for several rigs in the second half of the year. The company also disclosed on Thursday a flurry of new drilling contracts worth more than $1 billion. Those agreements are primarily for work in Mexico and Brazil, though there were also contracts in West Africa, which Dickerson called "an exciting market." In the Gulf of Mexico the pace at which U.S. regulators are issuing drilling permits "has picked up," particularly for deep-water wells, but is still suffering the effects of last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster, Dickerson said. "Certainly when we talk to customers in those markets they seem to be very optimistic that things are picking up," he said. "The tone is improving and there are more permits going out the door, but we're not near where we were." Deep-water drilling was suspended for about 10 months in response to the deadly rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and touched off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Though the government's official moratorium was lifted last fall, it wasn't until late February when U.S. regulators began approving deep-water drilling projects, which face heightened scrutiny. Dickerson said producers need to have multiple permits, allowing them to rapidly move equipment from one drilling project to the next, before the market can fully recover. Shares of Diamond recently traded 3.95% lower at $69.86. -By Ryan Dezember, Dow Jones Newswires; 713-547-9208; ryan.dezember@dowjones.com -Nathalie Tadena contributed to this article.

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