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Energy Winners & Losers: Eagle Ford Plays

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Marathon Oil (MRO) is spending $3.5 billion to acquire a net 141,000 acres in the Eagle Ford, Texas, shale from Hilcorp Energy and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a deal that will double Marathon's Eagle Ford exposure and one it said will equal 80,000 barrels of oil equivalent production by 2016.

The implied price paid per acre for the 141,000 net acres in the Eagle Ford can be looked at two ways: the simple value per acre, which works out to $25,000, and sets a new high water mark for U.S. shale deals (by a wide margin of premium paid, too.) Taking into account the 7,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) production already coming from the acreage, the value of the deal would be as high as $21,000 per acre. Analyst estimates of the proven reserves and potential proven reserves would place the deal between $15,000 per acre and as high as $21,000 per acre.

Either way, this deal is at the high-end of valuations in the Eagle Ford and leaves investors with one question: Will Marathon Oil's paying up for assets in the Eagle Ford pay off?

Marathon Oil shares declined by close to 2.8% on Wednesday, though that was only slightly worse than the energy sector decline of 2.2%. Earlier in the day, before a market selloff reached its worst proportions since August, the decline in Marathon Oil shares was three times the decline in the energy sector. At the same time, the Marathon deal boosted some other independent exploration and production companies associated with the Eagle Ford in early Wednesday trading, but as the market losses mounted, the gains were mostly erased , though some of the Eagle Ford names had a much smaller decline than the broader energy sector or held onto small gains.

Swift Energy (SFY) ended down 1% on Wednesday. SM Energy (SM) ended the day up 1.9% (half of its morning gain), and SM Energy also announced the divestiture of $44 million in non-core Texas assets on Wednesday morning. In its release about the asset sales, though, SM Energy did allude to negotiations that are ongoing about its Eagle Ford acreage.

Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) was down 0.6% on Wednesday. Forest Oil (FST) ended trading up 0.7%. The Marathon deal is in Pioneer's "wheelhouse" and Forest Oil has acreage in overlapping Eagle Ford counties.

Lucas Energy (LEI), a more speculative name in the Texas shale plays, was up 13% to a share price of $3.20 on Wednesday.

EOG Resources (EOG), one of the primary names associated with the Eagle Ford, was down close to 1% on Wednesday.

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