BHP Acquires Petrohawk Energy in $12.1 Billion Merger

BHP will gain access to huge shale assets in Texas and Louisiana.

Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton on July 15 unveiled a $12.1 billion takeover of U.S. firm Petrohawk Energy Corp. that will allow it to tap into the lucrative U.S. shale gas market.

BHP will pay $38.75 a share, but the total value of the acquisition will be $15.1 billion including Petrohawk's debt, in a deal that will give BHP access to huge shale assets in Texas and Louisiana, the two companies said.

"The proposed acquisition of Petrohawk is consistent with our... strategy and provides us with even greater exposure to the world's largest energy market, while also broadening our geographic and customer spread," BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers said.

The agreed sale price represents a 65% premium on Petrohawk's closing share price on July 14, offering an indication of BHP's keenness to be a major player in the fast-growing U.S. natural gas market.

But the Sydney- and London-listed resources giant's share price fell sharply on news of the acquisition, closing 1.63% lower at Aus $42.89 after hitting a two-week low in early trading.

BHP said it now will be on track to deliver compound annual production growth of more than 10% for the rest of the decade as it develops its shale gas and deepwater resources.

The move marks a major new step in the bid by BHP, one of the world's biggest miners, to diversify from minerals and mining into oil and gas. It follows BHP's purchase earlier this year of U.S.-based Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s shale gas holdings in the state of Arkansas, along with some pipeline assets, for about $4.75 billion in cash.

Petrohawk's Eagle Ford and Haynesville shales and its Permian Basin resources cover 1 million acres. The fields boasted proved reserves of 3.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent in 2010 and were expected to produce about 950 million cubic feet of natural gas equivalent in 2011.

The Houston-based firm expects to produce the equivalent of 158,000 barrels of oil a day in 2011, has around $8.2 billion in gross assets and posted a $390 million pre-tax profit for the year to December 2010.

Analysts said that BHP's merger with Petrohawk likely will be a good one for it in the longer term, despite the premium it has agreed to pay.

"The biggest story is that natural gas is going to be a huge part of America's total energy demand and Petrohawk is well positioned to take advantage of that," said IG Markets institutional dealer Chris Weston.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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