North America leads the inventory with over $9 billion (or roughly 45% of value); followed by Africa (22%) with the North Sea, Rest of Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and Middle East rounding out the pack with deals valued at between $500 million to $1.5 billion.
In North America, the most prized deal is the multi-billion dollar interest Devon Energy is offering in its four discoveries (Kaskida, Cascade, Jack and St. Malo) in the emerging Lower tertiary trend in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Onshore resource style plays (shale gas and oilsands) remain quite active. Notably, Shell and EnCana are looking for a partner to develop 30,000 acres of exploration leases in the Haynesville shale gas play of north Louisiana and east Texas. In Canada, UTS Energy rejected the revised $677 million cash bid by Total E&P Canada in April as inadequate and continues working with its financial advisors, RBC Capital and TD Securities, to maximize shareholder value. UTS Energy has 1.7 billion barrels of net contingent bitumen resources in the Athabasca Oil Sands area of Alberta.
Internationally, Africa is exciting with numerous deals. West Africa now offers “unparalleled opportunities” for major and independent oil and gas companies, writes Patrick Morris, CEO of Vancouver-based Gold Star Resources Corp. Changing geopolitics, reduced security and political risks, the recent 1.8 billion barrel discovery in West Africa’s largest oilfield, and a new African foreign policy by recently elected U.S. President Barack Obama have all helped in making West Africa a “desirable destination for oil and gas exploration and production.” In Ghana, two partners have put interests on the market in the world class offshore Jubilee field (estimated 1.2 billion barrels equivalent of gross recoverable reserves). Other deals are available in Uganda, Angola, Kenya, Egypt, Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroon and Namibia. In other parts of the world, significant deals in play include development projects in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which now has an improving political and security environment.
In Indonesia, BP is seeking to harvest its 46% interest in the prolific Offshore North West Java block, which includes 670 producing wells, 170 platforms and 1,600 km of subsea pipelines.
Chevron has retained Scotia Waterous to sell its interest in 13 separate concessions in the Austral and Nequen basins of Argentina which were producing nearly 4,500 b/d of gross oil and 54 MMcf/d of gross gas in late 2008.
In Australia, Woodside Petroleum has put its Otway project, offshore Victoria, on the market. “Due primarily to the whipsaw in oil and gas prices over the past 12 months, our analysis highlights an unusually high quality and diverse set of world class opportunities, particularly for well-heeled buyers seeking long term assets in early stage development,” according to Yashodeep Deodhar, CEO of Derrick Petroleum Services. “These are not distressed assets put on the market by distressed companies. Quite the contrary, we have identified numerous opportunities by first class operators who are simply managing their forward risk profiles and laying off a portion of development capital. We foresee the recent trend of national oil companies (NOCs) and government backed oil companies dominating the buy side to continue.” In completing the study, Derrick also reviewed past M&A activity and trends. “In contrast to the first half of 2008 where seven of the top ten buyers were western companies; so far this year, only three of ten buyers are western. Buyers of significant deals have recently been mostly NOCs and government-backed companies such as IPIC (Abu Dhabi), CNPC (China), KNOC (Korea) and Ecopetrol (Colombia),” according to Deodhar. “In addition to tracking deal activity, value trends regionally and globally, and deals in play, we also continuously monitor companies with financial dry powder and a desire to do more deals. Currently, notables on this list include Norway’s StatoilHydro, Colombia’s Ecopetrol, China’s Sinopec, France’s Total, United States’ Apache Corporation and Canada’s Talisman Energy. These companies alone have over $20 billion of capability,” concludes Deodhar.
“The role of junior exploration companies is to set the trend,” said Patrick Morris of Gold Star Resources Corp. For example, Gold Star Resources is the first and only junior company to go after onshore oil and gas opportunities in Cote d’ Ivoire and Liberia since the 1970s. Larger players are competing for offshore blocks all along the coast – but with no plans for any onshore exploration.
Market research firm IBISWorld forecasts that industry revenue for oil will grow at an average annualized rate of 9.8% over the five years to 2014, where new capacity is expected to come on stream in several oil producing countries, which will help to moderate the upward price pressure, which is expected to emerge as demand starts to revive.