CALGARY — International oil and gas producer Vermilion Energy Inc. is taking advantage of low valuations for "unloved" Canadian energy assets in a $1.4-billion deal to buy a Saskatchewan-focused rival, its CEO said Monday.
The company will issue $1.23 billion worth of Vermilion shares and assume about $175 million in debt to buy fellow Calgary-based producer Spartan Energy Corp. in a transaction expected to close in June.
CEO Tony Marino said Vermilion has been watching the Saskatchewan energy sector for about five years and first entered the field in 2014 because it of its light oil-producing wells and good pipeline access to markets in the United States.
"The Canadian sector continued to be more and more unloved over time, especially in the past year in the capital markets, and with our evaluation methodology and criteria we had, we found it came to represent better and better value," he said on a conference call.
"Spartan is probably the best example of this out there in that you have a company that is quite capable of rapid production growth."
In January, Vermilion bought an unnamed private company with production of about 1,150 barrels of oil per day from wells near the southern Saskatchewan-Manitoba border for about $91 million in cash.
The Spartan deal is expected to add about 23,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, taking Vermilion's overall output to about 95,000 boe/d.
The deal is an opportunistic one for Vermilion and allows Spartan to escape "an increasingly frustrating" market where investors haven't rewarded its operational expertise with a fair stock price, said analyst Kristopher Zack of Desjardins Capital Markets in a report.
He said he doesn't think a superior bid will emerge, despite Spartan getting only a five per cent premium over Friday's closing price, noting there is a $40-million break fee if the deal isn't completed.
Both company's boards of directors have endorsed the deal but it must receive at least two-thirds approval from shareholders to be finalized.
Marino said the deal will increase Vermilion's percentage of production from North America to about 60 per cent from 46 per cent but it will continue its strategy to have geographically diverse holdings.
The company has European production from operations in Ireland, France, Netherlands and Germany and also produces oil from an offshore project in Australia.
Vermilion said it is increasing its overall 2018 production guidance to a midpoint of 88,000 boe/d from 76,000 boe/d previously — it reported about 72,800 boe/d in the fourth quarter.
It said it will increase its 2018 capital budget to $430 million from $325 million to reflect spending planned for the acquired lands.
Follow @HealingSlowly on Twitter.
Companies in this story: (TSX:VET, TSX:SPE)
Dan Healing, The Canadian Press