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Sanchez Buys Eagle Ford Shale Acreage From Shell

HOUSTON (The Deal) -- Oil and gas explorer Sanchez Energy (SN - Get Report) will almost double its holding in the Eagle Ford shale gasfield after picking up assets from Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A - Get Report) for $639 million.

Sanchez said late Wednesday the assets include 60 million barrels of oil equivalent of proved reserves and 24,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of production in the first quarter, 60% of which is liquids.

It is acquiring a 100% working interest and a 75% net revenue interest in 106,000 acres in Dimmit, LaSalle and Webb counties. That is expected to bring Sanchez's holdings in the area to 226,000 acres with up to 3,000 potential drilling locations and average first-quarter production of 42,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

The acquisition, which will be backdated to Jan. 1, also comes with 200 low-risk drilling locations, with 35% to 50% rates of return and 800 potential locations, bringing the company's potential drilling locations to almost 3,000 wells.

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Sanchez said it expects the deal to immediately add to earnings and cash flow per share. It said the deal was worth $10.65 per barrel of oil equivalent based on year-end 2013 reserves and $32,000 per barrel of oil equivalent per day based on estimated production in May of 20,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The producing assets come with infrastructure. Sanchez said it plans to pay for the deal with $950 million in committed debt financing.

Sanchez Energy CEO Tony Sanchez III said the company's initial estimates put the acquisition's resource potential at up to 500 million barrels of oil equivalent. The deal should close in the second quarter if it clears regulators.

In March, the profit-challenged Shell confirmed it planned to sell the properties as part of a $15 billion divestiture program. Shell has already sold acreage in Kansas, Ohio and Colorado.

Jefferies LLC's Ralph Eads advised Sanchez and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP provided legal counsel. The Akin team included David Elder, Shubi Arora, Cy Jones, Michael Byrd and Patrick Hurley. Evercore Group LLP's Shaun Finnie and Rob Pacha assisted Shell, and senior legal counsel Melanie Larson led the legal work for Shell. -- by Claire Poole and Paul Whitfield

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