Diamondback Energy's $26 billion purchase of fellow Permian driller Endeavor shoots its stock up more than 10%



Diamondback Energy Inc. surged more than 10% after agreeing to buy fellow Permian Basin driller Endeavor Energy Resources LP in a $26 billion deal that’ll create the largest explorer focused exclusively on the western hemisphere’s busiest oil field.

The agreement swells the value of recent shale takeovers to roughly $150 billion as oil executives scramble to pad portfolios with future drilling sites and shore up cash flows. The impacts will be felt far afield from the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, where rampant output growth is challenging the OPEC+ alliance’s efforts to curb global crude supplies and prop up prices.

Diamondback’s advance made it the day’s second-best performer in the S&P 500 Index, an atypical price reaction for the acquirer in such a major transaction. While some Wall Street analysts said the company paid a full price for closely held Endeavor, the deal also solidifies Diamondback’s “position as a must-own Permian pure play,” TPH Energy Research’s Jeoffrey Lambujon wrote in a note.

The two companies headquartered across the street from one another in the Texas town of Midland, the de facto capital city of the Permian region, will pump the combined equivalent of 816,000 barrels a day, making it larger than both Marathon Oil Corp. and Devon Energy Corp. 

The consolidation marks a maturation of the long-fragmented shale industry and as publicly traded companies face increasing investor pressure to sustain dividends and buybacks.

Diamondback will fund the deal with 117.3 million shares and $8 billion in cash, the companies said in a joint statement Monday. Diamondback shareholders will own 60.5% of the company after closure.

Diamondback has secured an $8 billion bridge-facility commitment from Citigroup Inc. The deal with Endeavor includes a $1.4 billion termination fee, according to a filing. When the sale closes, Diamondback expects to launch a debt offering of $5 billion to $6 billion.

Acquiring Endeavor is a resounding coup for Diamondback. The company founded by shale pioneer Autry Stephens has long been a titan among the relatively small so-called mom-and-pop operations that long steered Permian exploration. Endeavor has previously attracted the interest of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips.

Stephens, who grew up on a watermelon-and-peanut farm and had to shut down almost all his rigs during the 2008 financial crisis, had a net worth of $14.8 billion before the sale to Diamondback was announced, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Diamondback’s and Endeavor’s assets compliment each other very well, paving the way for the combined company to produce crude more efficiently, said Dan Pickering, who is founder and chief investment officer of Pickering Energy Partners and a veteran of the shale-finance sector. 

The move positions Diamondback to better survive as an independent entity amid the ongoing merger wave, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. The combined companies will deploy fewer drilling rigs overall but still deliver output growth at some point in the future, said Diamondback President Kaes Van’t Hof.

“Our shareholders are not paying us for growth these days,” Van’t Hof said during a conference call with analysts on Monday. “They want return of capital.”

Analysts already are comparing the combined companies to Pioneer Natural Resources Co., which had been the biggest independent Permian pure-play company until it agreed late last year to merge with Exxon for $60 billion. The Diamondback-Endeavor combination creates a company with an enterprise value of about $60 billion, according to Andrew Dittmar of research firm Enverus.

Diamondback expects the deal to close during the fourth quarter.

The Permian Basin is the cornerstone of oil-production growth in the US. The nation’s output surged to a record high last year — besting Saudi Arabia by about 45% — thanks largely to wells in the Permian that can be drilled and fracked cheaper and faster than those in many other regions. Oil remains in high demand globally despite efforts to transition away from it, with consumption expected to rise through 2030 — and perhaps beyond.

Jefferies LLC was Diamondback’s lead financial adviser on the deal. JP Morgan Securities LLC advised Endeavor.

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