The tradewinds that whistled through the oil and gas industry for years have blown into a tempest for buyers and sellers in 2015.

Asset deals so far this year are down 92% from last year’s total, falling to $4.2 billion in 2015 from $52.1 billion, Mike Ames, Raymond James managing director, said in an Aug. 18 report.  

Oil prices showed some stability in the second quarter and activity picked up for a time. Companies made 18 transactions in the second quarter of 2015 for assets valued at $2.4 billion. That was up from 10 deals in the first quarter worth about $1.7 billion.

“As oil prices inched upward and appeared to stabilize at the $60/bbl mark during the second quarter, M&A activity picked up but still lags behind recent years,” Ames said.

But oil prices hit a low point in August, with crude falling to roughly $1.36 per gallon from $3.17 per gallon. 

“The pullback in commodity prices since the quarter’s end is already having a dampening effect,” Ames said.

Nevertheless, continued huge buy-side demand exists and active deals are getting attention with billions of dollars in energy-specific capital available.

“Many deals are on the market, but if the bid-ask price is too far apart there may be delays in closing deals,” Ames said.

 

Ames said active regions included the Midcontinent with four transactions, Appalachia with four and the Permian with three.

Natural gas has held its own among oil’s freefall. In recent years liquids-rich properties have been highly sought after while natural gas fell out of favor.

In 2015 the number of gas-weighted deals kept pace with oil deals, with 14 transactions each. The second quarter of 2015 saw seven oil transactions worth an average of $104.6 million while natural gas transactions averaged $166 million.

Among the highest value transactions of the second quarter was Diamondback Energy’s (FANG) acquisition of Cobra Oil & Gas Permian for $437.8 million in a deal largely focused on oil.

In the Utica Shale, Gulfport Energy Corp. (GPOR) acquired dry gas window acreage from American Energy–Utica LLC’s Utica assets for $407 million.

Activity for conventional producing assets has also increased in 2015, Ames said. The first and second quarters each saw seven conventional transactions, with the Midcontinent topping all regions with five conventional asset deals.                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Sell, Merge, Drill

For the immediate future, large-cap companies are reorganizing budgets and looking at divesting non-core assets. Some mid- and small-cap companies are considering a consolidation through corporate M&A.

Raymond James also noted that rig counts are beginning to show similarities  to the 2008-09 cycle.

“In the last major downturn, rig count peak to trough was nine months,” he said. “Recent data suggests that current rig count is beginning to increase in a very similar manner.”