[Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:13 CST June 19 with additional information about the buyer Evergreen Natural Resources.]
Pioneer Natural Resources Co. (NYSE: PXD) said June 13 it agreed to sell all of its Raton Basin assets in southeastern Colorado, inching the Irving, Texas-based company closer to its goal of becoming a pure Midland Basin player.
Pioneer will sell its Raton assets, including all of its producing gas wells and associated infrastructure in the field, to Evergreen Natural Resources LLC for $79 million.
Pioneer sold about 165,000 net acres, including 2,096 operated wells in Las Animas, County, Colo., to Evergreen. Net production from Pioneer’s Raton assets averaged roughly 84 million cubic feet per day, or 14,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, during first-quarter 2018, consisting entirely of natural gas.
A familiar face will take over the Raton assets: Mark S. Sexton.
Roughly 14 years ago, Sexton headed Evergreen Resources Inc. as chairman and CEO. In June 2004, Pioneer and Evergreen agreed to a $2.1 billion merger including $890 million cash, $897 million in Pioneer stock and the assumption of Evergreen debt.
At the time, Evergreen was a leading developer of coalbed methane reserves in the U.S. Its resources increased Pioneer's proved reserves by about one-third, with 94% of its proved reserves concentrated in the Raton area. The acquisition cost for the proved reserves was $1.40 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas equivalent.
On the close of the transaction in September 2004, Sexton signed a two-year non-compete deal with Pioneer and joined its board of directors.
In March 2017, Sexton formed Evergreen Natural Resources in Golden, Colo., using the same address listed on Securities and Exchange Commission documents in 2004. He also previously served as chairman and CEO of Inflection Energy LLC.
Sexton could not be reached for comment.
Pioneer’s Raton production represents roughly 22% of the company’s first-quarter gas volumes of about 378.9 million cubic feet, according to analysts with Seaport Global Securities.
“Although we estimate the deal was struck at a modest multiple of $940 per Mcf/d, we believe it, more importantly, represents another milestone in Pioneer’s transformation into a Permian pure-play, which will conclude after it monetizes its remaining non-Permian assets,” Seaport analysts said in a June 14 note.
Earlier this year, Pioneer embarked on its strategy to sell all of its assets outside of the Permian, where the E&P plans to focus its entire $2.9 billion capex in 2018. Assets earmarked for sale, which in some cases have been part of Pioneer’s portfolio for decades, include positions in the Eagle Ford, South Texas and West Panhandle regions.
Pioneer’s Eagle Ford and West Texas Panhandle assets have an estimated value of $940 million, said Phillips Johnston, an analyst for Capital One Securities. Associated G&A expenses are roughly $360 million.
The West Panhandle assets are spread across 239,500 net contiguous and HBP acres, largely in Moore and Potter counties, Texas. Pioneer’s net production from 705 active wells, of which 65% liquids, is expected to be about 45 MMcfe/d in 2018, according to BMO Capital Markets, which is handling the sale.
“After all the divestitures are completed, of course, we become a pure-play in the Permian Basin, in fact, a pure Midland Basin player,” Timothy L. Dove, president and CEO, said during a May earnings call. “And that will enhance our reported returns because, of course, our reported cash margins will increase our cash revenue per boe, our operating costs will be reduced per boe and our corporate returns will also be significantly improved.”
Pioneer has already made some headway on its strategy so far this year with the sale of its Eagle Ford joint venture (JV) assets to Sundance Energy Australia Ltd. (NASDAQ: SNDE). The $221.5 million transaction, which closed in April, included assets held by Pioneer’s JV partner Reliance Industries Ltd.
Dove said Pioneer’s divestiture process could easily last through the majority of this year, but “suffice it to say it’s on the front burner and we’re making good progress.”
Pioneer said it expects the sale of its Raton assets to result in a pretax noncash loss of $65 million to $75 million recorded during second-quarter 2018.
Additionally, Pioneer and Evergreen have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to transfer Pioneer’s transportation commitments on pipelines owned by the Colorado Interstate Gas Co. LLC to Evergreen.
Pioneer said it anticipates closing the transaction by the end of July, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.