Seadrill upgraded, shares still down

Seadrill was upgraded again, this time by HSBC to a price target of 210 Krone (still an “overweight” for them, their previous price target was 175 … current price is about 160). Stock still dipped a few percentage points in Norway, almost all right at the end of their trading day when NY was open and “falling” oil brought down all the deepsea drillers before the US inventory data release. RIG and DO are both down a couple percent this morning, too.

News out of Norway yesterday, if my translations are correct (the original article is here — with a nice picture of Fredriksen and Troim), is that Tor Olav Troim, one of the financial engineers for John Fredriksen and a Seadrill board member, said it would be a disappointment if they didn’t issue at least a billion dollars in dividends this year. With about a quarter of a billion issued in that first 60-cent dividend, that would mean at least a dividend of $2.40 for the coming 12 months. No guarantees, of course, but it is clear to me that returning capital to shareholders as they become profitable and their rigs enter contracts will continue to be their priority.

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A lot of this depends (the big dividends, not their future profitability) on their continued ability to get sale/leaseback transactions in place for their most valuable assets, the deepwater rigs and drillships. They’ve stated that these are complex deals, but that they are in negotiations and trying to make these deals. Capital markets are tight, and this isn’t as easy as it would have been a year and a half ago, but these are extremely valuable assets that have committed customers in place, so I’m not too worried — I think the banks and probably Ship Finance Limited will continue to be delighted to work with Seadrill, and many of the rigs they’d like to make deals on have better contracts in place than the West Polaris.

I remain interested in buying more shares, if I can ever go for three days without writing about them. I still think shares that are bought up to a price of $38 or so will seem like excellent investments a couple years from now, as I wrote to you originally, and I think if you hold shares at $38 in 2009 you’ll probably get something like a 10% ...

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