Chevron's Anadarko bid seen putting other Permian companies in play

By Rachel Adams-Heard on 4/12/2019
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Concho field operations in the Permian basin.

HOUSTON (Bloomberg) -- Chevron’s $33 billion bid for Anadarko Petroleum may presage a new Permian basin buying spree, with Pioneer Natural Resources and Concho Resources among the next prime targets.

Pioneer, Concho and Noble Energy surged Friday after Chevron unveiled plans to buy Anadarko, a deal that expands the supermajor’s presence in the Permian region, Gulf of Mexico and East Africa. The transaction vaults Chevron into the rarefied air of rivals Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, which in turn may be roused to make acquisitions of their own.

Occidental Petroleum, fresh off its own failed bid for Anadarko, may now find the tables have turned as its hefty footprint in the world’s biggest oil field attracts the attention of acquisitive rivals. Investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co and BP Capital Fund Advisors both cited Occidental as a potential target.

“From a big-picture perspective, the majors have really bought into shale, but from an asset perspective, the majors don’t necessarily have the right asset portfolios,” Tudor Pickering’s Matthew Portillo said by telephone. “We do think this is going to be the spark that really catalyzes a lot of M&A.”

For Exxon, buying Pioneer or Concho would help the oil giant plug a hole in its Permian portfolio, Portillo said. Shell also will feel pressure to buy more acreage in the prolific stretch of West Texas and New Mexico, possibly by acquiring smaller players like WPX Energy and Cimarex Energy, Portillo said. BP may too embark on expansionist takeovers, he added.

Buying Neighbors

The peculiar nature of shale exploration is an impetus for acquisitions. Unlike in conventional oil fields, shale requires sideways drilling to access crude-soaked rocks, so the further a company can drill horizontally, the more oil it captures. In that context, buying neighboring drillers makes a lot of sense.

For Chevron, Anadarko presented an enticing target. In addition to vast deepwater holdings in the Gulf of Mexico and an ambitious liquefied gas development in Mozambique, the company controls Permian drilling rights across an area twice the size of Los Angeles. Multiple layers of oil-rich shale extend for more than 1.5 mi underground within that zone.

The most obvious target companies “are the ones that represent the same opportunity Anadarko presented to Chevron,” said Ben Cook, a portfolio manager at BP Capital in Dallas. “It becomes a game of matching up maps.”

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says

If Chevron’s acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum is the catalyst that kicks off the long-anticipated wave of consolidation within the independent energy sector, smaller producers could see their credit profiles improve.

In addition to Pioneer and Concho, Cook highlighted EOG Resources, Occidental and Parsley Energy Inc. as names that could fit the bill for supermajors on the prowl. Noble was also floated as a top-three candidate in a note by RBC Capital Markets.

“You see a deal like this and it does tend to kick off a wave of M&A activity,” Cook said. “This is yet another confirmation that shale development and the short-cycle bbl is increasingly attractive to the majors.”

Investors have been pressing shale producers to consolidate in order to gut overhead costs and increase shareholder returns. In a note to clients the day before the deal was announced, Tudor Pickering said Anadarko continually came up in meetings as a high-cost standout. Chevron said it can axe about $1 billion a year in operating costs under the transaction, with another $1 billion in savings on capital expenditures.

That may put pressure on other explorers with bloated administrative costs, driving “more meaningful industry consolidation,” Tudor Pickering’s Portillo said. “There’s significant synergy opportunities."

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