Northern Drilling exercises ‘Colbalt Explorer’ option

Source: press release, 30 April 2019

‘West Mira’ drilling rig
‘West Mira’ drilling rig (photo: Northern Drilling Ltd)

Northern Drilling Ltd has announced it has exercised the option for Cobalt Explorer, a 7th generation DP3 and ultra-deepwater drillship from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd (DSME) for a total consideration of USD 350 million and flexible delivery until end Q1 2021. Cobalt Explorer is a high-spec Tier 1 UDW drilling ship being purchased at close to 50% discount to the pervious owner’s estimated total project cost of USD 660 million. Cobalt Explorer is the only stranded UDW drillship from Korean yards that comes with additional spare parts including two blow out preventers, which are conservatively estimated to have an additional value of USD 25 million each.

The consideration of USD 350 million is split: USD 12 million paid in December 2018; USD 93 million will be paid in five payments of USD 18.6 million over ten months, beginning June 2019; and USD 245 million final instalment at delivery.

With back-end loaded payment terms and flexible delivery schedule, Northern Drilling can comfortably wait for further market improvements in the benign deepwater market before electing to take delivery. The market for Tier 1 drillships continues to strengthen with several data-points of day rates approaching USD 300,000 per day for start-up in 2020 and beyond. The company believes the fundamentals will continue to tighten and is ideally positioning itself with three high-spec drillships due for delivery in 2021.

Scott McReaken, CEO, comments, “With the Cobalt Explorer acquisition, Northern Drilling continues to execute on our strategy and adds to our premium fleet of Tier 1 drillships, all acquired at a substantial discount to replacement cost. The company’s two harsh environment rigs were acquired on a similar forward delivery basis and we have successfully secured contracts with premium operators at leading day rates in the North Sea. The deepwater market is showing clear signs of a recovery providing increased confidence our drillships will continue to appreciate in value and secure attractive contracts by their delivery in 2021.”

The company has also announced it has agreed a USD 100 million revolving credit facility (RCF) with Sterna Finance, an affiliate of the company’s largest shareholder Hemen Holding Limited. The RCF shall have a tenor of 3 years and bears an all-in interest cost of 6.75% p.a. reflecting commitment and continued support from the company’s largest shareholder.

Finally, Wintershall has elected to exercise the fourth and final front end option for West Mira, bringing the commencement of operations forward into mid Q3 2019.