Q3 2014 was a quieter period for global oil and gas M&A activity compared to the previous quarter, but 2014 is still on track to have a greater total M&A spend than 2013.
The total value of E&P deals worldwide in the quarter amounted to $34.5 billion, an approximate 30% drop on the total value of deals announced in Q2. North American activity grew for the 5th consecutive quarter but, curiously, deals outside of North America almost dried up completely; deals in North America made up almost 86% of the total deal value worldwide.
The rise in deals in North America could be attributable to various factors. Unconventional oil resource plays are still the hottest properties on the market, with the Permian basin seeming to the current centre of highest demand. There are also many cases of companies with a diverse variety of assets trying to streamline their property holdings to give a more specific area of focus and as a result many North American assets have been made available for purchase. This stands in stark contrast to a few years ago where companies looked to hoard as much shale and unconventional acreage as possible across every play they could find. With the increasing gas prices and the approaching reality of North American gas exports, gas assets are also becoming more and more marketable. As for deal value drying up outside of North America, it is very hard to pinpoint any specific factors that would drive down activity. The number of deals announced outside of North America has been reasonably consistent over the last few quarters, so this points to the lack of “big” deals being the main contributor of the low deal value. In Q3 2014, there were only 2 deals announced outside of North America with a value of more than US$500 million, one of those happening on the very last day. In Q1 and Q2 2014, there were 8 and 12 such deals respectively.
US Permian Basin – High Demand in Q3 2014
Whilst Q3 2014 seems to have been a quiet period for global E&P M&A activity, the US Permian basin has seen a hectic few months in contrast. Acquisitions in the Permian basin made up nearly half of the total E&P deal value in the US and just under a third of total E&P deal value worldwide at around US$11.2 billion. M&A activity in the Permian Basin has been on the rise since Q1 2014.
Encana Speeds Up Move to Oil Production with Biggest Deal of the Quarter
In late September, Encana, Canada’s biggest gas producer, signed the largest deal of the quarter in agreeing to acquire Texas-based Athlon Energy Inc. for around US$5.93 billion in cash. Once the assumed debt of US$1.15 billion as well as Athlon’s cash position of around US$243 million is taken into consideration, the deal represents a total outlay by Encana of US$6.84 billion.
The deal marks Encana’s entry into the Permian basin, which seems to be the most sought after resource play in North America right now. It is typically oil rich from shale and other tight, unconventional formations. Encana’s acquisition of Athlon is a huge step for the company in quickly realising its goal to become a more oil weighted company. Of all the companies listed on the TSX, Encana is the biggest gas producer but only ranks as the 11th biggest oil producer. Encana’s board has been seeking to rectify that in recent times, solely focusing efforts on its North American unconventional resource plays. The multi-billion dollar spin-off of PrairieSky Royalty Ltd., which closed in September, was part of this strategy and helped leave the Canadian company with ownership positions in the following shale plays:
Encana’s positions in the plays listed above gives them a large amount of current natural gas production, but any oil is mainly prospective, future production. The position in the Permian basin (roughly 140,000 acres) will add to this, but does give Encana some immediate oil production (the 30,000 boe/d acquired was made up of 80% oil, 20% natural gas) to bolster its figures. The future potential of the asset and Encana’s plans to quickly expand the oil portion of its portfolio will explain the relatively high prices paid per boe/d of production and per boe of 1P reserves ($223k and $38.69 respectively).
All Permian Basin Deals in Q3 2014
Whiting to Become the Largest Bakken Producer as Baytex Moves South
Whiting Petroleum announced the second biggest deal of Q3 2014 with the US$6 billion acquisition of Kodiak Oil & Gas. The acquisition adds approximately 34,000 boe/d to Whiting’s Bakken portfolio, according to Q1 2014 figures from Kodiak. Its new combined acreage position of 855,000 net acres is still not as large as Continental Resources, which holds over 1.2 million acres in the play, but this additional production combines with Whiting’s own reported Q1 production to give 107,000 boe/d from the first quarter’s operations, which is higher than Continental’s 97,500 boe/d in the same period. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year. The Bakken has seen a lot of deals like this in recent years, with companies agreeing deals that consolidate already significant acreage positions in the play, suggesting that the Bakken is an area where only those with the largest scale operations can succeed. Of course, the flip-side to this is that smaller operators find things difficult and Baytex Energy has followed in the footsteps of Magnum Hunter Resources and QEP Resources (to name only two from recent times) this quarter in selling off acreage in the Bakken.
Baytex Energy is actually a very interesting case study; the company’s US business has changed completely within the first nine months of 2014. At the turn of the year, the company was operating in the Bakken and agreed to acquire Aurora Oil & Gas, a South Texas Eagle Ford producer, in February. Around the time of this deal completing late in the second quarter, Baytex (currently Canada’s 19th biggest producing company) began a portfolio review aimed at identifying and selling producing assets with lower rates of return that would not be the focus of major investment going forward. The Bakken assets that were held at the turn of the year are the first major assets to be sold; Baytex announced a deal with SM Energy in July to sell the Bakken properties for US$330.5 million. So within nine months (the Bakken sale closed in late September) the company’s US business has moved south in its entirety, now completely focused on Texas and the Eagle Ford shale, where wells cost around US$1.7 million less to drill on average, according to latest data from the Evaluate Energy North American shale play database (see note 1).
Murphy Oil sells Stake in Malaysian Assets on Last Day of Quarter
The biggest deal outside of North America this quarter was announced on 30th September, as Indonesia’s Pertamina agreed to acquire 30% of Murphy Oil’s Malaysian offshore assets for US$2 billion. Offshore assets can be costly to maintain, and the reduced ownership for Murphy will free up significant funds every year for the company to reassign towards its core Eagle Ford position back in the US or towards other acquisition opportunities. For Pertamina, this may only be the start of things to come as the company continues to struggle with demand back home in Indonesia. More deals like this should be expected from Pertamina as demand for oil and gas is growing while production is falling. Consequently, sourcing cheaper imports are becoming a much higher priority than ever before and acquiring overseas stakes will assist in this endeavour.
Top 10 E&P Deals Worldwide in Q3 2014
1) In the Bakken, company guidance for the year 2014 gave an average well cost estimate of US$8.9 million, and Eagle Ford wells averaged at a cost of US$7.2 million.
This report was created using the Evaluate Energy M&A Database which holds all E&P deals back to 2008. The database also now includes Refinery, Midstream (inc. Pipelines and LNG) and Service Sector deals. To find out more about Evaluate Energy's M&A offering, please download our brochure.