Transocean reports wider third-quarter loss

Swiss drilling contractor Transocean, which has been hampered by tax challenges, downtime at shipyards and high maintenance expenses, reported Sunday night a wider third-quarter loss despite a big increase in revenue.

CEO Steve Newman told investors during a conference call Monday that the company is by “no means satisfied where we are,” but he is happy with the improvements Transocean has been making and is confident about its future.

The company said that for the three months ended Sept. 30 it lost $381 million, or $1.06 a share, compared to a loss of $32 million, or 10 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue in the July-September quarter rose more than 22 percent to $2.44 billion from $1.99 billion a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items related to discontinued operations, the sale of two floaters and certain tax losses, Transocean reported adjusted earnings of $499 million, or $1.37 a share.

Transocean shares rose $2.23, or 4.8 percent, to $48.29 in morning trading Monday.

Newman said Transocean is focused on reducing its debt and lowering its expenses, which will continue to weigh on its results in 2013. He was noncommital when asked by an analyst about whether Transocean would consider issuing a dividend next year.

“I wouldn’t completely rule it out,” Newman said. “But, we’re really focused on the balance sheet objectives.”

Big names in the energy sector scheduled to report July-September results over the next week-and-a-half include Marathon Oil Corp. and EOG Resources  on Tuesday and Weatherford  International  next week.

The industry has offered a mixed bag this earnings season, thus far. Those that have fared well are the ones that are more diversified in their operations and are doing a better job controlling costs.

For the first nine months of the year, Transocean said it lost $675 million, or $1.90 a share, compared to a profit of $411 million, or $1.28 a share, a year earlier. Nine-month revenue came to $6.92 billion, compared to $5.97 billion a year earlier.

The company didn’t say anything in its earnings release about its ongoing legal troubles related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico rig explosion and oil spill off Louisiana.

Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded. It was leasing the rig to British oil giant BP for use in drilling an undersea well owned by BP that blew out. Eleven rig workers were killed and some 206 million gallons of oil was discharged, according to U.S. government estimates.

Hefty fines and penalties related to the disaster are expected to be imposed.

Newman declined to discuss the pending oil spill litigation during Monday’s call with investors, except to say Transocean is open to a settlement but is confident in its case if it goes to trial.

As for Weatherford, a Swiss-based oilfield services firm that also was a BP contractor involved with the blown-out Macondo well, analysts will be looking at how the company is managing the downturn in North American demand, among other things.