Exxon Mobil Corp.’s planned takeover of one of the vanguards of the shale revolution signals Big Oil’s tightening grip on the sector that vaulted the US to the top of global oil producers.
(Bloomberg) — Exxon Mobil Corp.’s planned takeover of one of the vanguards of the shale revolution signals Big Oil’s tightening grip on the sector that vaulted the US to the top of global oil producers.
Exxon is in talks to acquire Pioneer Natural Resources Co. in a deal that would mark the biggest expansion yet among oil supermajors to solidify their hold on the Permian Basin, the western hemisphere’s most-prolific oil field. For Pioneer’s peers, the move threatens to trigger an imminent bidding war as other international giants scramble to remain competitive.
Read More: Exxon Nears Takeover of Pioneer, Its Biggest Deal Since 1999
Exxon and fellow supermajors such as BP Plc and Chevron Corp. have been playing catch up since so-called independent companies like Pioneer and Continental Resources first cracked the code on shale more than a decade ago. Exxon’s pursuit of Pioneer, however, suggests the heyday of the independents is over.
“You’re seeing this go more and more to the big players,” Leo Mariani, an analyst at Roth MKM, said Friday in a phone interview. “The majors are signaling they want to consolidate more of the US.”
An Exxon-Pioneer tie-up would create the largest driller in the vast Permian region of West Texas and New Mexico, with 37 rigs actively searching for crude. That would be far in excess of the closest competitor, Occidental Petroleum Corp., with 22 rigs, according to data firm Enverus.
The combination also would forge the biggest employer of the specialized teams of technicians, laborers and other workers that perform the delicate, exacting task of fracking wells, according to Lium LLC.
In the early days of breakthroughs in shale technology, the supermajors shunned the sector because of skepticism over whether the wells could produce enough crude over a long enough period of time to yield significant profits. Shale’s fast pace of development also represented a sea change away from Big Oil’s bailiwick of mega projects that took billions of dollars and as much as a decade of planning and construction to come to fruition.
Attitudes began to soften at the start of the last decade when Exxon and Chevron began dipping into the natural gas side of shale exploration, followed a few years later by ventures into oil-heavy fields such as the Permian.
Still, major companies right now only control about 15% of the Permian region’s overall production, which means there is ample room for more consolidation.
Pioneer represents a rich target for Exxon because of its huge portfolio of yet-to-be-drilled prospects, much of which is adjacent to or very near the suitor’s current operations, Arun Jayaram, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a note to investors on Friday.
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