E&Y: Midstream megadeals ‘dominate’ 3Q M&A activity

The third quarter saw another slight quarterly increase in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the US oil and gas industry, driven by an abundance of midstream megadeals, according to analysis from PwC US.

The professional services firm’s quarterly report of announced US transactions with value greater than $50 million indicates that 14 midstream deals occurred during the quarter, accounting for $63.5 billion, or 70% of overall deal value.

During the 3-month period ending Sept. 30, an overall total of 51 oil and gas deals took place, accounting for $91.2 billion, which was higher than the 47 deals worth $38.8 billion that occurred in the previous quarter (OGJ Online, Aug. 5, 2015), but still down from the 83 deals worth $125.7 billion that occurred in third-quarter 2014.

Seven deals during the third quarter were megadeals—deals valued at more than $1 billion—totaling $80.8 billion, with four in the midstream segment.

“Deal activity in the oil and gas sector was dominated by megadeals in the midstream segment despite a significant contraction in the capital markets,” explained Doug Meier, PwC’s US oil and gas sector deals leader. “These megadeals are driven by the objectives of gaining the benefit of scale, synergies, and expected growth in distributions-dividends at a time when US onshore production levels have started to decline.

“Depressed commodity prices, existing leverage constraints, and deteriorating availability of debt and equity financing will encourage more companies to merge or sell off assets to strengthen their balance sheets,” Meier said.

There were no oil and gas initial public offerings (IPOs) in the third quarter while follow-on equity offerings decreased 56% compared with the same period last year. High-yield and investment-grade debt issuances decreased 78% and 74%, respectively, compared with third-quarter 2014.

“The oil and gas capital markets have slowed considerably, making it more challenging for companies to ride out the current environment,” said Joe Dunleavy, PwC’s capital markets advisory partner. “This reduction in access to capital will add considerable downward financial pressure on oil and gas companies to ensure they have strategies in place to be in a position to succeed now, and once the market rebounds. As we have seen, and as we expect we will see more of, these strategies include bankruptcy.”

More upstream deals

The upstream segment recovered in the third quarter from recent lows, accounting for 27 transactions worth $8.8 billion. Total upstream deal volume increased 50% compared with the second quarter, but was down 36% compared with the same period last year. Six of the transactions represented equity commitments.

Oil field services deal value increased to $16 billion from $11.1 billion vs. third-quarter 2014, driven by one megadeal.

The total number and value of downstream deals decreased to 3 deals worth $2.9 billion, compared with 12 deals worth $9.4 billion in last year’s third quarter.

Twenty-five corporate deals totaling $83.3 billion took place in the third quarter, while 26 asset deals totaling $7.9 billion occurred. Corporate deals represented 49% of the total deal volume and 91% of the total deal value, which included 10 midstream deals worth $61.3 billion.

Financial investors continued to show interest in the oil and gas industry with 17 transactions—the highest number of deals in a third quarter in the past 10 years—worth $4 billion. Equity commitments from private investors accounted for 10 of the deals, totaling $2.7 billion.

“Financial investors continue to work with portfolio companies to shore up balance sheets and seek additional investment opportunities where valuations are attractive,” added Rob McCeney, PwC’s US energy and infrastructure deals partner.

Permian most active shale play

Twenty-two deals with values greater than $50 million related to shale plays took place during the third quarter, totaling $29.5 billion. That represents a 5% increase in total deal value and 41% decrease in total deal volume compared with third-quarter 2014.

“Companies are focusing on basins that have proven levels of production and making investments looking to shed those assets associated with nonproductive wells,” said John Brady, PwC’s Houston assurance practice leader.

The most active shale play during the quarter was the Permian, which led in activity with seven deals worth $4.1 billion. The Eagle Ford contributed five deals worth $2.8 billion.

“Oil and gas company valuations continue to be depressed as the realization has set in that we may be at the current commodity price range of $40[/bbl] to $60[/bbl] longer than previously expected,” explained Seenu Akunuri, PwC’s US oil and gas valuation practice leader. “There has been a significant increase in the number of impairments of assets and goodwill, and highly leveraged companies will likely be looking to sell assets to survive and in certain situations filing for bankruptcy protection.

“We expect deal activity to pick up over the next 12 months as the market will see companies with free cash flow and strong balance sheets acquire assets and businesses from motivated sellers,” Akunuri said.

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