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Fresh M&A Wave May Wash Over Gulf E&P

While Hurricane Ernesto's strong winds don't appear headed to the Gulf of Mexico, another sort of wind blew into the exploration business Monday, a strong merger wind.

In a move that surprised just about everyone, Woodside Petroleum, an Australian-based firm with interests in the Gulf, offered $23 to $24 per share for control of Energy Partners (EPL), a New Orleans exploration and production business with strong ties to the Gulf of Mexico.

The offer is certainly intriguing to Energy Partner shareholders, who would realize a 33%-plus premium based on Friday's close. And the deal should be intriguing to the company's directors, sans one minor detail: The company is in the final stages of completing its own merger, purchasing Stone Energy (SGY - Get Report), another exploration company with a focus on the Gulf of Mexico.

Therein lies the rub. Woodside consummating a marriage with Energy Partners would require EPL to leave Stone at the altar, literally. Woodside has conditioned its offer on Energy Partners' rejection of the Stone merger.

Stone-Cold Shoulder

Energy Partners' decision to bid for Stone did not come lightly. In fact, Stone was in the process of working through a merger with Plains Exploration (PXP) when Energy Partners came a-calling. Stone considered both deals carefully, and only after EPL agreed to front the $43 million-plus breakup fee due Plains did Stone agree to walk down the aisle with Energy Partners.
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SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
PXP $0.00 0.00%
MMR $0.00 0.00%
EPL $37.73 0.69%
BDE $10.02 -0.60%
CPE $6.17 0.00%

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