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European Regulators OK Proposed Shell-BG Merger

Regulators in Europe have approved Royal Dutch Shell plc’s proposal to spend almost $70 billion to buy UK-based BG Group plc, a deal that would create the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) company in the world.

On Tuesday, the European Commission (EC) said an antitrust investigation into the proposed merger determined that Shell would not gain an unfair advantage in several markets -- specifically, oil and natural gas exploration, gas liquefaction or wholesale LNG supplies.

"A number of strong competitors would remain active in these markets after the merger," the EC said and the combined company "would be unlikely to prevent competitors from accessing some of Shell's LNG liquefaction facilities used to supply LNG into the European Economic Area or from its natural gas transportation and processing infrastructure in the North Sea.

"This is mainly because significant additional liquefaction capacity is being built and will come on-stream in the near future, while significant spare oil and gas transport and processing capacity exists in the North Sea region."

The merger would boost Shell's proved reserves by about 25% and its production by about 20%, based on figures from 2014. But when the proposal was first announced last April, it made scant reference to either companies’ forays into shale. Both have stakes across the U.S. onshore and in the Gulf of Mexico (see Shale DailyApril 8).

According to their respective websites, Shell holds about 1 million acres in Appalachia -- much of it prospective for shale natural gas/liquids -- while BG Group and EXCO Resources Inc. have formed a partnership to exploit shale gas opportunities in East Texas, North Louisiana and Appalachia.

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said EC clearance "underlines the good progress we are making on the deal...The recommended combination with BG is a springboard to change Shell into a simpler and more profitable company, making Shell more resilient in a world where oil prices could remain low for some time."

Shell plans to close the deal in early 2016. With EC approval, the energy giant said it has now met two of the five pre-conditions. Brazil approved the merger on July 24. The remaining pre-conditions are for clearances from China and Australia. The proposed merger received early termination in June from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

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