Houston oil and gas explorer Marathon Oil(MRO) - Get Report said Monday it agreed to sell some of its non-operated carbon dioxide and waterflood assets in West Texas and New Mexico to an unnamed buyer for $235 million.
The properties averaged around 4,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the first half of this year. The price may be adjusted when the deal closes, which is expected by year-end.
Seaport Global Securities analyst Mike Kelly said the sale came at a "solid value" for assets that most investors likely ascribed little value to and will be well received. And even though he expects the company's leverage to modestly improve next year, he notes its production growth per debt adjusted share of 10% through 2020 still lags "elite" exploration and production companies, which keeps him neutral on the stock.
Analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities said while the amount of reserves wasn't disclosed, the valuation looks positive compared with recent deals. "We expect [the] company to continue pruning its portfolio to de-lever its relatively high debt-load," they said.
Marathon has announced or closed non-core asset sales of more than $1.5 billion since August of last year, including operations in Norway, East Africa and the U.S. Its most recent was the sale of its assets in Wyoming's Big Horn area from Merit Energy Co. in April for $950 million.
The company, which is led by 24-year Exxon Mobil veteran Lee Tillman (pictured), has suffered through one of of the worst downturns in the oil and gas industry after a severe drop in oil prices. The company has had to take some strong measures, including layoffs, capital expenditure reductions and a 76% dividend cut a year ago.
It's also had some management changes, including the departure in August of CFO J.R. Sult, who was replaced by corporate development and strategy president Pat Wagner on an interim basis.
With Marathon's divestitures largely completed (and surpassing its target of $750 million to $1 billion), the company has been on the prowl for higher growth properties to buy. In June it picked up acreage in the popular Stack play in Oklahoma via the acquisition of EnCap Investments LP-backed PayRock Energy LLC for $888 million.
Marathon has also been rumored to be interested in acquiring Silver Hill Energy Partners LLC, the Permian Basin operator being shopped by Jefferies Group LLC that's expected to fetch more than $2 billion. The sale would represent an exit for the company's private equity backers Kayne Anderson Capital Advisor LLC and Ridgemont Equity Partners.
Marathon plans to release third quarter earnings after the markets close Nov. 2 and discuss them on a conference call Nov. 3.
Marathon is believed to have handled the asset sale in-house. Its general counsel is Sylvia Kerrigan.