Whiting Petroleum to sell North Dakota midstream assets

Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL) has entered into purchase and sale agreements to sell its 50% interest in its Robinson Lake natural gas processing plant and associated natural gas gathering system located in Mountrail County, North Dakota and its 50% interest in its Belfield natural gas processing plant and associated natural gas, crude oil and water gathering systems located in Stark, Billings and Dunn Counties, North Dakota. From April through September 2016, these plants had average daily throughput of 132 MMcf per day.

An affiliate of Tesoro Logistics Rockies LLC has agreed to purchase the assets for $700 million, pending regulatory approval. Whiting’s share of the sale price would be approximately $375 million. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.

James J. Volker, Whiting's Chairman, President and CEO, commented, "We expect this sale to further strengthen our balance sheet and provide us with additional financial flexibility to invest for growth in Whiting’s top tier producing assets in the Williston and DJ Basins. This sale aligns with our ongoing strategy to divest non-core midstream assets and focus capital in the company’s highly productive upstream business."

Midstream divestiture has been discussed by Whiting management for a year or more so the deal itself was not a surprise, noted Brian T. Velie of Capital one Securities Tuesday morning. The price, however, “did surprise to the upside and more than doubled the $180MM of value we were modeling. The extra cash in the door increases our NAV by $1 to $13/share,” Velie said. Proceeds will delever the balance sheet, “taking our YE17 net debt to EBITDA estimate from 4.8x to 4.3x. YE18 balance sheet leverage drops in similar fashion from 4.0x to 3.6x. A positive update that addresses WLL's most significant headwind (leverage) to a more significant degree than we were expecting to be possible from such a sale,” he said.

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