BP may not have an appetite for an acquisition as it continues to be weighed down by its obligations from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As an aside, the continued fallout from that disaster has also resulted in BP having the cheapest reserves on the books by far of any company listed in the table. Also note that the EV/Res metric for integrated supermajors isn’t directly comparable to pure oil producers like Anadarko, as the former also have midstream and refining assets.
ConocoPhillips appears to be the most attractive target for an acquisition from a pure valuation perspective, but as the largest pure oil company it would be a large bite for even ExxonMobil. With respect to making an acquisition, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance stated earlier this year that the company isn’t feeling any pressure to do so.
Occidental also falls into the category of potentially making an acquisition or of being acquired. On a relative basis, they are more expensive than ConocoPhillips, but on an absolute basis the price would be more manageable.
What about smaller players like Parsley, WPX Energy, or Cimarex Energy? Based on the price movement following the announcement of the Chevron-Anadarko deal, investors are clearly betting that more deals will follow. Below are some of the metrics of potential acquisition targets (with Anadarko for comparison), including some of the large players listed in the previous table:
- 1-Day Change – Change in share price on April 12, 2019, the day the Chevron-Anadarko deal was announced
Note that the double-digit gains of both Pioneer Natural Resources and Parley Energy imply that investors believe they could be next on the acquisition list. Parsley looks attractively priced according to its enterprise value and total reserves. Several other companies stand out, such as Devon Energy and Cimarex, although all of these companies outspent their cash flow in 2018. An acquisition by one of the larger players could give them the efficiencies and economies of scale to rectify that.
Another name on the list that stands out is Diamondback Energy, which has long been one of my favorite Permian Basin oil companies. Diamondback has been an outstanding performer in recent years, but now looks to be the most richly valued according to several metrics following its 2018 acquisition of Energen.
The biggest challenge with the smaller players is that they may not have enough reserves to really move the profit needle for the biggest players. Laredo Petroleum’s 200+ million barrels of oil and gas reserves might not be sufficiently appealing to ExxonMobil, which had 24 billion barrels of reserves at the end of 2018. But it could be appealing to a company like EOG Resources, which closed the year with 2.8 billion barrels of reserves.
Ultimately, price and valuation are only part of the equation. Anadarko wasn’t the cheapest acquisition target for Chevron, but Chevron liked the synergies of Anadarko’s locations. Thus, every major operator in the Permian is more likely to acquire companies whose properties are adjacent to their own. A deeper dive thus becomes an exercise in not only value, but in studying maps of the Permian producers — large and small.