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(Oil service M&A story updated to correct for GE purchase of Wood Group well support division)
NEW YORK (
TheStreet) -- Energy stocks are always fodder for the mergers and acquisitions rumor mill, and it's no different in 2012 as the sector isn't lacking for trends to spur M&A.
The North American market is a good place to focus, with oil service companies dealing with a slower pace of growth and increased supply from competitors.
With natural gas prices hovering near historic lows, the entire North American market is moving to focus on oil. The major oil service companies are migrating away from natural gas basins as margins are declining. Oil service companies are also betting international activity increases while the North American market shifts.
Betting on a year of sexy acquisitions by the big oil service companies in 2012 may be wishful thinking: analysts.
Some of the biggest U.S. oil service companies, including
Halliburton(HAL - Get Report),
Baker Hughes(BHI - Get Report) and
Schlumberger(SLB - Get Report) have been highlighted as potential acquirers because of balance sheet strength and the shifting market.
Among acquisition targets, beaten-down, big-name energy stocks are getting a lot of rumor mill play, including those with international businesses,
Transocean(RIG - Get Report) and
Weatherford International(WFT - Get Report), and U.S. land driller
Nabors Industries(NBR - Get Report).
These are interesting deal cross currents for the oil service companies, but also raise questions about the likelihood of today's rumors becoming tomorrow's M&A headlines for the biggest oil service companies.
Here are 5 M&A trends within the oil service business that suggest it may be the smaller companies trying to move up into the world of the Halliburtons that feel the most pressure to consolidate in 2012.