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MODERATOR Claire Poole Senior Writer, Energy The Deal
Oil and gas M&A activity slid 48% in the first quarter of this year, with private equity firms moving to the sidelines given higher valuations for assets and after a busy fourth quarter by companies wanting to get ahead of the fiscal cliff, according PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The first quarter's activity was propped up mostly by foreign buyers, who focused on exploration and production opportunities, and strategic investors who searched for shale opportunities, which made up 46% of deal volume led by the Eagle Ford, Marcellus, Utica and Bakken shales. That led the quarter to be an improvement over the first quarter of last year, with 39 deals greater than $50 million accounting for $27 billion in deal value in 2013 versus 34 deals worth $25.7 billion in 2012.
While corporate level M&A activity in the oil and gas industry remains fairly stagnant, asset level transactions appear to be heating up, according to a report June 4 by Global Hunter Securities Inc. The firm notes Apache Corp., which announced last month it plans to sell $4 billion in assets to pay down debt and buy back shares, including some of its properties in the Gulf of Mexico (a move that some think was meant to preempt complaints by activist investors); W&T Offshore Inc., which GHS says has a "sizeable" Gulf of Mexico package on the market; Whiting Petroleum Corp., whose planned sale of its Postle field in Oklahoma "seems to be advancing" and could bring in $800 million to $1 billion; and Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp.'s "healthy bite" of additional Bakken production and acreage from Riverstone Holdings LLC-backed Liberty Resources LLC for $660 million, which was announced June 3. "With little activist activity over the last little bit now that we've moved through proxy season, it seems high time for private equity to create some excitement in the oil patch on the A&D, if not M&A, side of things," the firm said.