News that Continental Resources Inc. may be taken private should come as no surprise, according to North Dakota’s top oil and gas regulator.

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Continental is the largest producer in the oily Bakken Shale, which accounts for 96% of the state’s production. Executive Chairman Harold Hamm announced he is seeking to purchase all outstanding shares in the firm not already owned by the family.

Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Director Lynn Helms told reporters on Tuesday that North Dakota’s privately held exploration and production (E&P) companies have returned to pre-pandemic production levels, while output from their publicly traded counterparts is still well below that amount.

“Going private appears to have opened the door to better leveraging your cash flow, to...