UPDATE 3-Pride Int'l Q1 profit jumps; says open to consolidation

jueves 1 de mayo de 2008 23:32 CEST

(Recasts, adds conference call details, analyst comments)

By Shradhha Sharma

BANGALORE May 1 (Reuters) - Oil and gas driller Pride International Inc PDE.N posted a more than 100 percent jump in first-quarter profit that beat market estimates, and said it was open to consolidation in view of speculations about its possible merger with Norway's Seadrill Ltd (SDRL.OL: Cotización).

The company said it recognized the numerous benefits that could be achieved by further consolidation.

"We believe further consolidation will occur and we are always open to considering opportunities that would be compelling to our shareholders," a company official said in a conference call with analysts.

Last week, the company said Seadrill had acquired a 9.9 percent stake, sparking possible takeover rumors.

"I would say there's a decent chance of that happening," Jefferies & Co analyst Judson Bailey said by phone.

A merger of the two, if it takes place, would create the world's second-largest offshore driller. Pride's rival Transocean Inc (RIG.N: Cotización), which bought rival GlobalSantaFe Corp last year, is the biggest by far.

Responding to questions about a possible sale of its Gulf of Mexico jack-up assets, the company said it considers them non-core in the long term.   Continuación...