EQT Corp. on Thursday cleared the final hurdle to create the nation’s largest natural gas producer after receiving necessary shareholder approvals to acquire Rice Energy Inc.
Despite months of unrest among investors that questioned the merger, 84% of EQT shareholders approved the $8 billion deal, while 74% of Rice shareholders voted in favor of it.
The deal, expected to close on Monday, would increase EQT’s holdings substantially, including Rice’s 252,000 net acres in Ohio and Pennsylvania, midstream affiliates in both states and production that surpassed 1.4 Bcfe/d in the third quarter. EQT produced more than 2.2 Bcfe/d in the same period.
EQT has announced a plan to allay shareholder concerns that the stock is trading at a discount to overall value, with a board committee formed after the deal closes to make recommendations. Some investors argued that the merger should have been scrapped in favor of splitting EQT’s upstream and midstream businesses.
EQT CEO Steven Schlotterbeck said Thursday shareholders ultimately recognized that Rice’s business is an “outstanding strategic and operational fit,” saying “EQT is now one of the lowest-cost producers in the United States, possessing significant financial flexibility and an anticipated investment grade credit rating as well as more optionality to address the sum-of-the-parts discount.”
Under the terms of the transaction announced in June, EQT would acquire Rice for $6.7 billion and assume $1.5 billion of net debt and preferred equity. EQT company recently completed a bond offering that brought in $3 billion. The proceeds, along with cash on hand and credit, are to finance the acquisition.
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