(Reuters) - Noble Corp (NE.N), owner of the world’s third-largest offshore drilling rig fleet, plans to change its country of incorporation for the second time in less than five years, moving this time to the UK, which the company cited for its “well established tax regime.”
Noble said on Monday a shareholder meeting to approve the move out of Switzerland would occur by the end of the year. Chief Executive David Williams praised the UK’s position as an international business and travel centre as well as its tax regime.
The potential for more U.S. taxes on Caribbean “tax havens” was a key reason for Noble’s move from the Cayman Islands in early 2009. That decision came along with moves to Switzerland by rival Transocean (RIG.N), engineering firm Foster Wheeler FWLT.O and oilfield services company Weatherford (WFT.N).
Ensco Plc (ESV.N), owner of the second-largest offshore rig fleet, moved its incorporation to the UK from Delaware in 2010.
The tax treatment of companies with international operations has recently come under scrutiny from the Group of Eight leaders of the world’s rich economies.
Angie Sedita, oilfield services analyst at Swiss bank UBS, said the UK offered more flexibility with corporate and strategic actions such as dividend payments, as well as a tax advantage.
“Swiss laws, which require shareholder authorization for corporate actions such as dividends, share buybacks and equity issuances, are often perceived as overly onerous and can limit management’s flexibility in responding to industry or market events,” Sedita wrote in a note to investors.
She went on to flag a recent Swiss referendum requiring companies to hold binding annual votes on executive pay. Swiss laws are also generally more friendly to activist shareholders, she added, pointing out that some activist hedge funds had bought Noble shares in recent quarters.
The chairman of Transocean was just voted out in May after a battle with noted activist investor Carl Icahn.
Noble operations range from Australia to Alaska and India to Brazil, and also include the North Sea near Britain.
Sedita said Noble’s executive team would relocate to London from Baar, Switzerland.
Noble said in a statement its shares would still trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Details of the UK move and the associated benefits and risks will be provided with materials for its extraordinary meeting of shareholders, Noble added.
A Noble spokesman declined to elaborate on the statement.
Reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco; Editing by Steve Orlofsky