Maersk Drilling and Noble Corporation have entered into a definitive business combination agreement to combine in a primarily all-stock transaction. Following the completion of the transaction, the Maersk Drilling shareholders and Noble shareholders will each own approximately 50% of the outstanding shares of the combined company. The combined company will be named Noble Corporation and its shares will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Copenhagen.
Maersk Drilling and Noble share a very strong conviction about the compelling industrial logic for taking this step to create a differentiated offshore drilling company with the scale, capabilities, and resources to successfully serve a broad range of customers. The combined company will have a modern, high-end fleet of floaters and jack-up rigs across benign and harsh environments able to meet the needs of customers in the most attractive oil and gas basins. This transaction will unite and leverage the strong capabilities of Maersk Drilling and Noble, which both have decades of experience, differentiated value propositions, and unwavering commitments to best-in-class safety and service quality.
The combination is expected to generate estimated annual run-rate synergies of USD 125 million, which will create significant value for shareholders. The combined company will benefit from a diverse revenue mix, a robust contract backlog with significant earnings visibility, a solid balance sheet, and a strong free cash flow potential, supporting the potential for return of capital to shareholders while providing resiliency through the cycle.
The business combination agreement has been unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of Noble and Maersk Drilling, and the transaction is also supported by Noble’s top three shareholders, which collectively currently own approximately 53% of Noble shares, and APMH Invest A/S which currently owns approximately 42% of the share capital and votes of Maersk Drilling. In addition, certain foundations related to APMH Invest A/S, which currently own approximately 12% of the share capital and votes of Maersk Drilling, have expressed their intention to support the transaction.
“This combination carries strong industry logic. With the combination we are creating a differentiated provider of offshore drilling services, which will be able to enhance the customer experience through increased scale, global reach, and industry-leading innovation. The combination will create value for all shareholders and will offer investors a unique opportunity to benefit from the market recovery, a robust financial position and strong free cash flow potential, all paving the way for the potential return of capital to shareholders,” Maersk Drilling’s Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Claus V. Hemmingsen, said.
“In 2016, A.P. Moller Holding instigated the restructuring of A.P. Moller – Maersk and the renewal of the A.P. Moller Group. As part of such restructuring, Maersk Drilling was demerged from A.P. Moller – Maersk with the objective to establish an independent company with a capable, focused Board and to actively participate in the required consolidation of a distressed drilling industry. The combination of Maersk Drilling and Noble creates a drilling company with a stronger customer proposition building on the companies’ extensive operational capabilities. The combined company will hold an industry leading balance sheet, significant cost synergies, a modern fleet and with access to an international shareholder base,” A.P. Moller Holding CEO Robert Uggla outlined.
“Noble is the right match for Maersk Drilling, and the combination makes a lot of sense. I’m proud that Maersk Drilling’s strong heritage in the North Sea, unparalleled operational excellence and competencies, industry-leading sustainability position and commitment to innovation will contribute to creating a world class driller with an unmatched expertise within deepwater and harsh environment drilling. In the short term, the combination will, unfortunately, impact our organisation, but it will also create a larger and stronger company, which will provide future opportunities for growth and new jobs,” Maersk Drilling CEO Jørn Madsen noted.
“The combination of Noble and Maersk Drilling will create a leading offshore driller with global scale, a strong balance sheet and significant free cash flow generation potential. The transaction will be accretive to free cash flow per share, and I am confident that this combination will deliver meaningful value to all shareholders,” Noble’s Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Charles M. (Chuck) Sledge, mentioned.
The combination of Noble and Maersk Drilling is underpinned by a compelling strategic rationale for all stakeholders:
- Creating a world class offshore driller: The combined company will benefit from a modern, high-end fleet comprising of 20 floaters and 19 jack-up rigs across benign and harsh environments, which will serve a broad portfolio of high quality, blue-chip customers.
- Enhancing the customer experience: The combination will bring together two complementary cultures with an unwavering commitment to best-in class safety performance and customer satisfaction. The combined company will be a leader and first-mover in innovation and sustainability.
- Accretive to all shareholders: The realization of the potential annual cost synergies of USD 125 million is expected to be front-loaded with the full potential to be realized within two years after closing of the transaction. The synergies are expected to be accretive to free cash flow per share. The combined company’s scale will significantly enhance its cost-competitiveness.
- Platform for strong cash flow generation and distribution: The combined company is expected to have a normalized free cash flow potential of up to USD 375 million in 2023 and onwards with a highly attractive free cash flow yield potential, and additional cash flow growth stemming from the recovery of the international offshore drilling market. The balance sheet of the combined company will be best-in class with low net leverage and strong liquidity including a combined cash balance of approximately USD 900 million, providing resiliency through the cycle and allowing the combined company to focus on implementing a sustainable return of capital policy for shareholders.
In the last twelve months ended September 2021, Noble and Maersk Drilling had combined pro-forma revenue of approximately USD 2.1 billion. As of 30 September 2021 (pro-forma for the asset divestitures announced by Noble and Maersk Drilling), the companies had a combined cash balance of approximately USD 900 million resulting in net debt of approximately USD 600 million with no newbuild capex commitments. As of 30 September 2021, the companies had revenue backlog of USD 2.4 billion (pro-forma for the asset divestitures).
Upon the closing of the transaction, Robert W. Eifler, Noble’s President and Chief Executive Officer, will become President and Chief Executive Officer of the combined company and will be a member of the Board of Directors.
“Both Noble and Maersk Drilling have many decades of history as leaders in the offshore drilling industry. I look forward to the future as these two great organizations come together to create a stronger combined company. Our shared passion for safety and operational performance will drive better service for our customers while delivering better potential returns to our investors,” Robert W. Eifler stated.
The combined company will have a seven-member Board of Directors with balanced representation from Noble and Maersk Drilling. Initially, the Board of Directors will be comprised of three directors designated by Noble, three directors designated by Maersk Drilling, and Robert W. Eifler. Charles M. (Chuck) Sledge will become chairman of the Board of Directors jointly appointed by Noble and Maersk Drilling. Claus V. Hemmingsen will be one of the three directors designated by Maersk Drilling.
The combined company will be headquartered in Houston, Texas, and will maintain a significant operating presence in Stavanger, Norway, to retain proximity to customers and support operations in the Norwegian sector and the broader North Sea, and to ensure continued access to talent.
The transaction is subject to Noble shareholder approval, acceptance of the exchange offer by holders of at least 80% of Maersk Drilling shares, merger clearance and other regulatory approvals, listing on the NYSE and Nasdaq Copenhagen, and other customary conditions. The transaction is targeted to close in mid-2022.
J.P. Morgan Securities plc is acting as sole financial advisor and Davis Polk & Wardwell London LLP and Gorrissen Federspiel Advokatpartnerselskab are serving as legal counsel to Maersk Drilling. Ducera Partners LLC and DNB Bank ASA are serving as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Plesner Advokatpartnerselskab, and Travers Smith LLP are serving as legal counsel to Noble.