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BP strikes US$10.5bn deal to acquire BHP Billiton’s US shale assets

BP boss Bob Dudley describes it as a 'transformational' transaction - it delivers 190,000 boepd of production and over 4bn barrels in resources in the ground
oil and gas operations
For BHP it marks a long awaited exit from US oil and gas business

BP PLC (LON:BP) ticked higher on Friday after it unveiled a US$10.5bn deal with BHP Billiton plc (LON:BLT) to acquire the mining and natural resource firm’s entire US oil and gas business.

In late afternoon trading in London, BP shares were 0.5% higher at 567.30p, drifting back from early peaks of 570p with the oil giant to unveil its latest results next Tuesday. BHP Billiton shares were 3.2% stronger at 1,726.20p.

BP is acquiring 100% of Petrohawk Energy Corporation, the BHP subsidiary that holds interests in the Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Permian basin shale assets – which together yield some 190,000 barrels oil equivalent per day of production and 4.6bn barrels of discovered resources.

READ: BP ups stake in major UK North Sea oil field 

The move, according to BP, will provide growth into the next decade. It is accretive to both earnings and cash flow, indeed the oil major is now upgrading its medium-term upstream free cash flow target by US$1bn, to US$14-15 bn in 2021.

As something of a sweetener for BP’s more conservative, income-focused shareholders the company also today announced its first dividend hike for some fifteen quarters, with the payout rising 2.5% to 10.25 cents per share for the second quarter.

Dudley says the deal is ‘transformational’

"This is a transformational acquisition for our Lower 48 business, a major step in delivering our upstream strategy and a world-class addition to BP's distinctive portfolio,” said Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive.

“Given our confidence in BP's future - further bolstered by additional earnings and cash flow from this deal - we are increasing the dividend, reflecting our long-standing commitment to growing distributions to shareholders."

The deal

BP is paying a total of US$10.5bn, handing over half upon completion and a further US$5.25bn payable in six equal instalments over six months from the date of completion.

Brian Gilvary, BP chief financial officer, added: “The financial repositioning we have delivered in recent years and the confidence we have in our outlook for free cash flow allows us to take this extremely attractive opportunity now without any adjustment to our financial frame.”

The current frame sees BP expending between US$15-17bn of organic capital to 2021, with gearing of 20-30%. As such the deal is supported partially by divestments elsewhere in the BP portfolio as well as cash flow and equity raising (alongside the proposed deferred payments).

“This is fully consistent with our commitment to financial discipline and creating value for shareholders.  With our planned additional divestments and buybacks, we expect to deliver this major step forward for a net investment of around $5 billion," Gilvary said.

Seals an exit for BHP

For BHP, the transaction seals an exit from a diversification away from mining which was conceived during the ‘peak oil’ times, of plus US$100 per barrel crude.

The mining group is separately selling its other US oil and gas unit, which owns its Fayetteville assets, in a deal worth US$300mln.

“Our priority with this transaction is to maximise value and returns to shareholders,” said Andrew Mackenzie, BHP chief executive.

“In August 2017, we confirmed that we would seek to exit our US shale assets for value. Following a robust and competitive process, we have delivered on that commitment. We are pleased that we have agreed to sell all of our shale assets in two simple transactions that provide certainty for shareholders and our employees.”

"The sale of our onshore US assets is consistent with our long-term plan to continue to simplify and strengthen our portfolio to generate shareholder value and returns for decades to come.”

 -- Adds share prices --

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