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North America Said Tops for Prized Oil, Gas Assets

More than $20 billion of natural gas and oil assets currently are for sale worldwide, with North America leading the inventory, according to a new study.

Houston-based energy researcher Derrick Petroleum Services' study identified billions of dollars worth of assets now for sale, which consist of 69 separately announced transactions. Transactions were limited to those worth more than $10 million.

North America led the inventory with more than $9 billion, or around 45% of the total value of transactions available, followed by Africa, with 22%. Properties for sale in the North Sea, Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and Middle East rounded out the pack with deals valued at between $500 million and $1.5 billion.

The "most prized deal," according to Derrick, is Devon Energy Corp.'s offer of a joint venture stake in four of its deepwater Lower Tertiary discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico (see NGI, May 11). The Houston-based producer doesn't plan to sell in total any of its offshore holdings in the Kaskida, Cascade, Jack or St. Malo discoveries, but it hopes to secure a partner to help finance the offshore activity.

Transactions for onshore resource-style plays (shale gas and oilsands) in North America "also remain quite active," said Derrick.

Among the top prospects in North America is a partnership opportunity offered by the U.S. division of Royal Dutch Shell and EnCana Corp. to develop exploration leases in the Haynesville Shale (see related story). In Canada, UTS Energy is working with its financial advisers RBC Capital and TD Securities to sell the company, which has an estimated 1.7 billion bbl of net contingent bitumen resources in the Athabasca oilsands area of Alberta.

"Due primarily to the whipsaw in oil and gas prices over the past 12 months, our analysis highlights an unusually high quality and diverse set of world class opportunities, particularly for well-heeled buyers seeking long term assets in early stage development," said Derrick CEO Yashodeep Deodhar. "These are not distressed assets put on the market by distressed companies. Quite the contrary, we have identified numerous opportunities by first class operators who are simply managing their forward risk profiles and laying off a portion of development capital."

In completing the study, Derrick also reviewed past merger and acquisition activity and trends.

"In addition to tracking deal activity, value trends regionally and globally and deals in play, we also continuously monitor companies with financial dry powder and a desire to do more deals," said Deodhar. "Currently, notables on this list include Norway's StatoilHydro, Colombia's Ecopetrol, China's Sinopec, France's Total, United States' Apache Corp. and Canada's Talisman Energy. These companies alone have over $20 billion of capability."

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