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WildHorse Saddles Up to Ride With Public E&Ps in Texas, Louisiana

Houston-based onshore explorer WildHorse Resource Development Corp. has joined a select group of energy operators this year after launching on the New York Stock Exchange this week.

The initial public offering (IPO) of 27.5 million shares raised $391.7 million net, which was below expectations but enough to help fund a $400 million acquisition in the Upper Eagle Ford Shale from Clayton Williams Energy Inc. The IPO also is being used repay in full all notes payable to prior private equity owner, Natural Gas Partners (NGP).

WildHorse has leases not only in the Upper Eagle Ford of East/Central Texas but also in the natural gas-heavy Cotton Valley Sands of North Louisiana, a trend that is about 1,000-2,000 feet shallower than the Haynesville Shale. In its IPO registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, management said it had a total 375,000 net acres, with 267,000 in the Eagle Ford and 108,000 in North Louisiana. The company plans to operate 1,943 net acres with 2,298 net horizontal drilling locations, with 1,509 net locations in the Eagle Ford and 434 net in North Louisiana.

"We have an approximate 80% and 70% average working interest in our operated horizontal drilling locations in our Eagle Ford and North Louisiana acreage, respectively," management said. "In Southeast Texas, we operate in Burleson, Lee and Washington counties, where we primarily target the Eagle Ford Shale, which is one of the most active shale trends in North America. In North Louisiana, we operate in and around the highly prolific Terryville Complex, where we primarily target the overpressured Cotton Valley play."

The exploration and production (E&P) company, listed under "WRD," was founded in 2013 and today it is led by CEO Jay Graham and President Anthony Bahr, who co-founded Memorial Resource Development Corp. NGP-backed Memorial was bought earlier this year by Range Resources Corp.

In the first nine months of this year, WildHorse's pro forma average production was 18,700 boe/d net, 48% weighted to natural gas, 44% to oil and 8% to liquids. In 2015, pro forma average output was 17,700 boe/d. At the end of September, WildHorse produced from 427 horizontal and 458 vertical wells.

This year only a handful of privately funded E&Ps have launched IPOs.

Denver-based Extraction Oil & Gas Inc., launched in October, was the first U.S. E&P to go public in two years. Permian Basin producer Centennial Resource Production LLC had filed in July for a $100 million offering, but Silver Run Acquisition Corp. intervened and scooped up a majority stake. Silver Run, now rebranded as Centennial Resource Development Inc., launched as a publicly held blank check companyearlier this year; it is helmed by former EOG Resources Inc. chief Mark Papa.

According to Renaissance Capital, which tracks IPOs, only five energy-related IPOs launched this year, versus 30 in 2014, when crude oil prices swooned. The IPOs also include Noble Energy Inc.'s launch of Noble Midstream Partners LP. Together the launches raised an estimated $1.5 billion, which accounts for only about 5% of the 2016 total. In 2012, there were 25 energy-related IPOs that raised $7.3 billion, about 20% of that year's total.

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