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Access Midstream Gains More of Chesapeake's Gathering Assets

Access Midstream Partners LP on Friday appeared to continue a push aimed at purchasing the remaining midstream assets of Chesapeake Energy Corp. when it announced the acquisition of 103 compression units servicing gathering systems in the Appalachian Basin for $160 million.

On the surface, the deal will expand the partnership's capacity in the region by 200,000 hp and shore-up its balance sheet by bringing in house assets that it had been leasing from Chesapeake subsidiary MidCon Compression LLC.

Internally, though, it appears Williams Cos. Inc. -- which took a half-interest in privately held Access Midstream Partners GP (ACMP) and a roughly one-quarter interest in the limited partner units of Access Midstream Partners LP in December (see Shale Daily, Dec. 13, 2012) -- is making good on a promise to grow the value of its own gas pipeline partnership in the region.

Chesapeake said Friday that Exterran Partners LP had acquired another 334 compression units servicing gathering systems in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming for $360 million.

Access Midstream, meanwhile, said it has agreed to long-term compression service arrangements with Exterran in those areas that are consistent with its low-risk business model and that will allow it to continue benefiting from the service it provided customers in the region with the previous contracts it had with MidCon in those states.

"These assets fit the Access Midstream business model extremely well," said Access CEO Mike Stice. "Internalizing a portion of our compression expense is consistent with maintaining strong visibility to our cash flows. This acquisition is expected to be immediately accretive to distributable cash flow and enhances our organizational capability in this important aspect of our service offering for our producer customers."

In June 2012, private equity fund Global Infrastructure Partners LP purchased a large chunk of Chesapeake's natural gas pipeline system and other assets and rebranded it under the Access name (see Shale Daily, June 11, 2012). ACMP has had plans to spend about $2.16 billion to purchase Chesapeake's remaining midstream assets, which would also give Williams a 50% interest in the massive midstream systems with its new stake in Access.

In a pair of recent securities filings, two activist shareholders of Williams -- Corvex Management LP and Soroban Capital Partners LP -- disclosed that they own nearly a 10% share in Williams (see Shale Daily, Dec. 17, 2013). On Tuesday, Williams management agreed to appoint to the board Soroban Managing Director Eric Mandelblatt and Keith Meister, managing partner of Corvex, under a mutual agreement (see Daily GPI, Feb. 26).

Williams CEO Alan Armstrong said earlier this month that the company was "very well aligned" with those hedge funds and added that management has been actively involved in discussions with them to create more value for the company (see Shale Daily, Feb. 21), which has been significantly strengthening its position in the Northeast.

Access said its latest acquisition is expected to close by the end of March and add significantly to its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.

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