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 Inc. 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 Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell, which in turn may be roused to make acquisitions of their own.
Occidental Petroleum Corp., 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 also embark on expansionist takeovers, he added.
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 miles underground within that zone.