Noble Corporation and The Drilling Company of 1972 A/S announced that they 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 (“NYSE”) and Nasdaq Copenhagen.
Noble and Maersk Drilling 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 jackup 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 Noble and Maersk Drilling, 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.
Maersk Drilling’s Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Claus V. Hemmingsen, said: “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.”
Noble’s Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Charles M. (Chuck) Sledge, said: “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.”
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 jackup 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.
Commenting on the transaction, Robert W. Eifler stated, “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.”
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.
Transaction terms and structure
The transaction will be implemented by way of (i) a merger of Noble with and into a wholly owned subsidiary of Noble Finco Limited, a private limited company formed under the laws of England and Wales and an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Noble (“Topco”), and (ii) a Danish voluntary tender exchange offer by Topco to Maersk Drilling shareholders. In connection with the merger, (x) each outstanding Noble share and penny warrant will be converted into the right to receive one share of Topco, and (y) each issued tranche 1, tranche 2 and tranche 3 warrant will be converted into a warrant to purchase one share of Topco. Additionally, pursuant to the exchange offer, Maersk Drilling shareholders may exchange each Maersk Drilling share for 1.6137 Topco shares, and will in lieu of their entitlement to certain Topco shares have the ability to elect cash consideration for up to USD 1,000 of their Maersk Drilling shares (payable in DKK), subject to an aggregate cash consideration cap of USD 50 million (excluding any cash paid for fractional shares). Pursuant to the terms of the business combination agreement, upon closing of the transaction, the Maersk Drilling shareholders and the Noble shareholders will each own approximately 50% of the outstanding shares of Topco, and those shares will be listed on both the NYSE and Nasdaq Copenhagen. The approximate 50% ownership percentage of the Maersk Drilling and Noble shareholders is calculated using 66.6 million shares for Noble shareholders (which includes approximately 6.5 million penny warrants and excludes dilution from outstanding warrant tranches and share based compensation plans) and assumes that all Maersk Drilling shares are tendered in the exchange offer for shares.
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.