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Oil, gas deal tracker: Q4'19 saw focus on asset-level M&A

Apergy Corp.'s merger with the upstream segment of an Ecolab Inc. subsidiary was the biggest M&A deal announced in the 2019 fourth quarter across the U.S. oil and gas industry, and it joined the list of the biggest deals of 2019, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

The 2019 fourth quarter saw the oil and gas sector announce 16 fewer whole-company and minority-stake deals compared to the third quarter of 2019 — 107 deals compared to 123. In the same period, the combined value of these deals fell by about $9.5 billion to $18.7 billion. The aggregate value of announced asset transactions declined to $16 billion from $16.2 billion, even as the number of deals slightly increased.

According to the data, the number of company deals reached their lowest point in more than 18 financial quarters. Pressure on management teams to maintain more conservative balance sheets and the limited production growth forecast for 2020 has likely dulled M&A appetites.

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Oilfield services provider Apergy, however, saw an opportunity to acquire specialty chemical company Nalco Champion LLC's upstream business for $4.39 billion, and the transaction is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of 2020. Still, the deal comes as oilfield services companies face another challenging year in 2020 where they are likely to languish at the bottom of the investment pool, according to some analysts, before some valuations improve and recovery gets underway in 2021.

The largest transaction announced during the fourth quarter globally was Canadian convenience store and fuel station operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.'s $7.31 billion takeover bid for fuel company Caltex Australia Ltd. that was announced Nov. 16, 2019, but Caltex rejected that deal the following month and recently received an unsolicited offer from EG Group Ltd.

A DTE Energy Co. unit's agreement to buy gas gathering assets in Louisiana's Haynesville Shale for $2.65 billion from Momentum Midstream LLC and Indigo Natural Resources LLC was the second-biggest asset deal during the fourth quarter, despite concerns about the sellers' credit quality and the location.

Fourth-quarter midstream M&A announcements also included a decision by independent driller Noble Energy Inc. to sell its remaining midstream portfolio to Noble Midstream Partners LP for $1.54 billion and eliminate the master limited partnership's required payments to the general partner. The simplification deal and asset dropdowns came after months of speculation that Noble was putting the MLP up for sale — reportedly attracting interest from Williams Cos. Inc. and private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners.

The only international midstream transaction announced during the fourth quarter was a deal by Hungary's MOL Magyar Olaj- es Gazipari Nyilvanosan Mukodo Reszvenytarsasag, or Mol Group, to acquire two Chevron Corp. subsidiaries' nonoperated exploration and production interests and midstream interests in Azerbaijan for $1.57 billion.

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