It is human nature, as we see one year out and welcome the start of another, to feel an almost irresistible urge to tidy up, to get our house in order. For some that means giving their home a spring cleaning and polish, while for others it can be a more dramatic virtual house clearance and garage sale, so they can make room for all their new possessions. It’s rather reassuring to see the oil and gas business is apparently no different. The level of mostly offshore M&A activity in the last few weeks of 2012 was quite phenomenal, both on a larger corporate transaction level as well as smaller asset transactions. Let’s take a look. On a corporate level, the biggest move saw Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. spend US $10 billion in merger deals with Plains Exploration & Production Co. and McMoRan Exploration Co. Freeport-McMoRan is acquiring PXP for approximately $6.9 billion in cash and stock, and McMoRan Exploration for $3.4 billion in cash, or $2.1 billion net of 36% of the McMoRan Exploration interests currently owned by Freeport-McMoRan and Plains. Plains was no slouch in the asset market itself, announcing just days before the Freeport deal that it had closed its previously announced $5.55 billion acquisition of interests in certain deepwater GoM properties from BP E&P and BP America Production Co. Since the beginning of 2010, BP has now entered into agreements to sell assets worth around $37 billion. Plains also closed a deal for an interest in the Holstein field from Shell. ConocoPhillips, meanwhile, closed three major international deals in the same period. Just before Christmas, it sold its Nigerian business unit for $1.79 billion to affiliates of Oando Plc. Only days before that it agreed to sell its Algerian business unit to Pertamina for $1.75 billion plus customary adjustments, while in the last week of November it also revealed its intent to sell its 8.4% stake in the North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement (Kashagan) in Kazakhstan to India’s ONGC Videsh for $5 billion. Including all these, ConocoPhillips announced total asset sales of approximately $11 billion during 2012. There’s more. The Energy Resource Technology GOM (ERT) subsidiary of Helix Energy Solutions Group was sold to privately owned Talos Energy LLC for a minimum of $610 million, and possibly up to $700 million if ERT’s latest discovery called Wang meets expectations. Australia’s Woodside Energy, meanwhile, confirmed it was acquiring a 30% stake in the 17-Tcf deepwater Leviathan gas field offshore Israel, with the company to become the operator of any future liquefied natural gas development that takes place. It will pay out $1.3 billion if the deal goes through. The same company also farmed into the deepwater A-6 block offshore Burma (Myanmar) in the Rakhine basin for a 50% share. In Brazil, Petrobras sold 40% of its interest in the deepwater BS-4 concession in the Santos Basin to OGX Petróleo e Gás Participações SA, containing the Atlanta and Oliva fields, with Petrobras to receive $270 million. Norway’s Statoil is buying a 25% participating interest from Brazil’s Vale SA in block BM-ES-22A in the Outer Espirito Santo basin. Over the other side of the Atlantic offshore South Africa, ExxonMobil signed an agreement with Impact Oil & Gas Ltd. to acquire a 75% interest in the Tugela South Exploration Right Licence and become operator. Exxon also has the right to acquire 75% participating interests in future exploration rights in three areas covered by technical co-operation permits held by Impact. Further north, Rialto Energy Ltd. received ministerial and Ghana National Petroleum Corp. (GNPC) approval to acquire a 12.5% interest in the Offshore Accra Contract Area for a ‘mere’ $3 million to cover past costs, with a commitment to cover 2013 well costs of up to $10 million. And on Africa’s northern coast, Australian independent Pura Vida Energy farmed out a 15% stake in a Moroccan deepwater block to that company Plains again for an upfront payment of $15 million and with Plains meeting future exploration costs up to a maximum of $215 million. I could go on but that’s enough spring cleaning for now. The upstream M&A scene finished 2012 like it was going out of fashion but I think we can rest assured that the oil and gas industry’s good housekeeping is set to continue. Contact the author, Mark Thomas, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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