Halliburton Co.’s bid to buy oil-services rival Baker Hughes Inc. was opposed by the world’s fifth-largest producer Tuesday, a day after being stalled by European regulators.
Total SA (IW 1000/9) CEO Patrick Pouyanne said that the planned tie-up of the world’s second- and third-largest oil services providers is not good news for explorers and producers.
"Obviously when you have less competition in service providers, I’m not in favor," Pouyanne said in an interview in New Orleans at the Scotia Howard Weil Energy Conference. When asked if he voiced his opinion on Halliburton planning to buy Baker Hughes, he said, "I’m doing my job."
Halliburton agreed to buy Baker Hughes in November 2014 in a cash-and-stock deal that at the time was valued at about $35 billion. The transaction was scheduled to close last year but has been delayed as the companies grapple with antitrust concerns in the U.S. and Europe.
Antitrust Concerns Continue
The takeover is being reviewed by antitrust officials in the EU and U.S. who are weighing whether divestitures proposed by the companies are enough to resolve competition concerns. The Justice Department’s antitrust division wasn’t satisfied with the package as of December. The bid was stalled for a third time by the European Commission Monday as the companies continue to face regulatory hurdles on both sides of the Atlantic.
In a re-run of a similar delay last month, the European Commission said Monday it stopped the clock on the review because it wasn’t provided with key data about the deal. Halliburton already faced months of delays after last July’s EU rejection of an initial merger filing because crucial details were missing.
“To comply with merger deadlines, parties must supply the necessary information for the investigation in a timely fashion,” Ricardo Cardoso, an EU spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “Failure to do so will lead the commission to stop the clock.”
In Australia and Brazil, regulators have expressed concerns about the deal.
Oil Company Complaints
Other oil companies have complained to regulators about the proposed tie-up. Chevron Brazil said the acquisition could reduce to two from three the number of large service providers for certain products for drilling and completing wells, such as completion tools and cementing services. Depending on the results of asset sales, the merger could raise prices for these services in Brazil, according to filings posted last year with Cade, the Brazilian antitrust regulator.
Sonangol, Angola’s state oil producer, also said the merger would reduce services offered in Brazil and result in price increases, in a separate filing with Cade. Filings from BP and Total were blacked out. Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oil-services firm, said it “would continue competing vigorously, independent of the proposed merger” while Weatherford International Plc said it didn’t see any problem with the merger.