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Mexico Set to Gain First Independent E&P on Stock Exchange Since Adopting Energy Reforms

Four years after a constitutional overhaul opened Mexico’s energy sector to outside investment, the first independent oil and gas producer is preparing a public offering.

Vista Oil & Gas SA de CV tentatively could launch an initial public offering (IPO) as soon as Thursday. According to Vista’s prospectus, the company would list Class A shares under “VISTA” on the Bolsa Mexicano de Valores SAB de CV, aka the BMV Mexico Stock exchange.

Backed by Riverstone Capital and Miguel Galuccio, former chief of Argentina’s state-owned YPF SA, the Mexico City-based explorer filed the IPO prospectus in June. The company’s focus is Latin America, and specifically, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia.

“We consider that there is an opportunity to acquire material assets in a region with abundant resources that has historically been characterized by insufficient investment in the exploration and production sector,” the Vista prospectus said.

Other energy companies trade on BMV, including Infraestructura Energetica Nova, SAB de CV, better known as IEnova, Sempra Energy’s Mexico-based energy infrastructure company. IEnova has traded on Mexico’s stock market since 2013, but it is not involved in exploration or production.

Likewise, Mexican-based conglomerates Alfa SA de CV, and subsidiaries of Grupo Bal trade on the country’s stock exchange, and they each have oil and gas units. However, investors may not directly invest in their exploration units.

According to Vista’s prospectus, it would be Mexico’s first special purpose acquisition vehicle (SPAC). Plans are to raise at least $500 million in the IPO by selling around 50 million Series A units valued at about $10/unit.

Riverstone is no stranger to SPACs, publicly traded buyout companies that raise funds through IPOs to secure acquisitions. In recent years the PE company has used them successfully to buoy and launch U.S. onshore energy investments.

Riverstone has also been a booster of Mexico’s energy reform. In 2014 after reforms were implemented, Riverstone made its first energy investment in the country by backing Mexico City-based explorer Sierra Oil & Gas S. de RL de CV. Sierra Energy at that time secured $625 million total from Riverstone, EnCap Investments and Mexico’s largest infrastructure PE firm, Infraestructura Institucional.

In December Riverstone initially pledged $150 million for Mexico energy infrastructure developer Avant Energy S de RL de CV.

And it has stakes in Houston-based Talos Energy LLC, which in July struck oil and gas pay with partners that include Sierra Energy at the Zama-1 exploration wellin Mexico, the first offshore well drilled in the country by the private sector.

In addition to Galuccio, who is chairman and CEO, Vista’s executive team has deep and broad talent, with lots of YPF connections. CFO Pablo Manuel Vera Pinto previously was YPF’s head of business development until February. COO Juan Garoby was interim vice president of YPF’s exploration and production (E&P) business until October 2016. Investor relations chief Alejandro Chernacov, who until February was CFO at Jagercor Energy Corp., previously was YPF’s investor relations chief.

In the prospectus, Vista outlined the “panorama” of Latin American opportunities for the E&P sector. The region “is becoming a destination increasingly interesting for investments from a risk-adjusted perspective, due to encouraging developments, including the success of ongoing production agreements in Mexico, the macroeconomic normalization of Argentina and the emergence of Vaca Muerta as a commercially viable shale formation,” Vista said. Vaca Muerta has drawn prospectors that include ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell plc.

Mexico specifically has “a long history as an oil and gas producer, is the 10th oil producer worldwide and has the third largest oil reserves tested in Latin America, after Venezuela and Brazil. The country has multiple formations throughout its territory and many opportunities to take advantage of recent energy reforms.”

The reforms should “result in significant investments in the country,” said the prospectus.

Numerous private investment opportunities exist across Mexico’s industry spectrum, including E&P, construction and operation of additional pipelines, more natural gas storage/transport facilities and rebuilding gasoline stations, “which will require large sums of capital.”

Vista also discusses in depth Mexico’s resource potential in the prospectus.

“Although the largest resources are found in the deepwater fields and in the unconventional formations, conventional terrestrial fields still have substantial potential, with around 450 mature fields. In addition, the resource base...is among the largest in the world and is only a few hundred miles away from the most developed shale formations in the United States.”

The Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas extends into Mexico, and unconventional resources may exceed conventional resource potential, Vista said.

Most of Mexico’s unconventional resources “are similar to the formations in the United States, which in recent years have received tens of billions of dollars in capital expenditures, with technologies and work processes that may be transferable through the border between Mexico and the United States.”

In addition to these opportunities for private investment, Mexico also has significant potential to increase oil recovery by applying new techniques that could result in recovering large volumes.

“The combination of the scale of hydrocarbon resources and the diversity introduced by multiple geological formations make Mexico a key country to develop our initial business combination,” Vista management said. “Likewise, we consider that the potential in oil resources and gas could be increased strongly by the combination of avant-garde technology, technical know-how, managerial talent and capital.”

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