Activist investor Keith Meister would likely need to launch a director-election battle at Energen Corp. (EGN) to drive a sale of the business now that the oil and gas company has completed a strategic review of alternatives and concluded that it will maintain its existing business plan.
The company said Monday, June 19 that it had received input from financial advisers JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) - Get Report and Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., based in Houston, Texas, on its strategic review. It said in a statement that the best way to enhance shareholder value is to continue to execute its business plan.
The oil and gas company also raised its 2017 oil production guidance to 5.9% higher than its previous guidance.
"With a high-quality asset base, a strong balance sheet, and an experienced and capable workforce, Energen is well-positioned for growth and shareholder value creation," said Energen CEO James McManus in a statement.
The move isn't expected to be met enthusiastically by Meister, a Carl Icahn protege, who disclosed a 5.5% stake in Energen on May 31. At the time Meister said that he had engaged in discussions with the company about what the fund manager said he believed to be "attractive" oil and gas leaseholds in the Permian Basin of west Texas and New Mexico.
The fund also suggested that the company should "strongly consider a review of the potential value delivered to shareholders through a change of control transaction given the recent wave of acquisitions in the Permian Basin ... ."
Nevertheless, Energen's decision not to sell itself puts the ball in Meister's court. Meister recently hiked his stake to 6.6%, according to a securities filing on June 14 in a move that suggests that Corvex could escalate its efforts.
Meister has launched director election contests in the past in efforts to drive M&A and other changes at targeted companies. A director battle would likely be the only way Meister could drive a sale of the oil and gas company now that it has concluded that staying independent is what its board and management wants to do. One would need to be launched by Feb. 2 to be considered at Energen's 2018 annual meeting.
In addition, it is possible that other oil and gas companies would like to buy Energen. In his May 31 securities filing, Meister said that he expects to continue to have conversations with the company and third parties "including both domestic and international oil and gas companies" as well as shareholders. This suggests that the activist fund is talking to other investors about whether they would support a sale as well as potential oil and gas companies in the U.S. and abroad to gauge their interest in acquiring Energen.
Energen came off The Deal's Watchlist of possible activist targets in late May after Corvex launched its campaign. The company was put on the Watch List in late May after Corvex, and three high-profile activists reported accumulating shares in the $5.2 billion oil and gas driller, according to their quarterly 13F securities filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.