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The Deal: Activist Investors Target Oil Industry

Stocks in this article: DVN RIG XOM OIS SD CVI NBR CHK OXY HES APA

Some activists have been successful in the energy sector, others have not. Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp. was able to get Hess CEO John Hess, son of the company's founder, to give up the chairmanship, but New York-based Hess was able to keep its new board nominees after agreeing to add three from Elliott.

And TPG-Axon Capital Management LP won in its fight with Oklahoma City's SandRidge, gaining board seats (although not control of the company), management changes (including the potential departure of founder and CEO Tom Ward by June 30), a formal review of related party transactions by an independent firm and a strategic review process that could lead to a sale of assets or of the entire company. "If all goes according to the activists' plans, we should see a leaner, meaner SD SandRidge emerge, with a renewed focus on capital discipline, risk management and project economics," Global Hunter wrote in a note May 8.


Carl Icahn has had mixed results. While he was able to take control of Sugar Land, Texas-based refiner CVR Energy, which issued a special $6.50 per share dividend to shareholders on May 28, and got CEO Aubrey McClendon of Oklahoma City's Chesapeake booted, he only achieved a partial victory with Transocean, convincing the board to vote out chairman Michael Talbert and install one of his own nominees but failing to boost the annual dividend to $4 per share from the Swiss-based offshore driller's proposed $2.24.

Even a whisper of potential activism can send an energy stock soaring, whether a big change is coming or not, given a tough energy stock market plagued by directionless crude oil prices, mixed industry fundamentals and general commodity skittishness, Houston's Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities Inc. said. The firm cites Key Energy Services Inc., which said May 24 it was expanding its board of directors to include Mark Rosenberg, principal of MHR Fund Management LLC and Key's largest shareholder. The Houston oil service provider's stock added 10% over two days on the news. "Activists have had much success moving energy stocks over the past year," the firm wrote.

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