Story updated from Dec. 12 to correct the following: Exco Resources net debt to EBITDA is 3.7, not 7.81 as a previous version of this article incorrectly stated.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The selloff in oil prices is expected to spur more energy mergers next year, as giants such as Exxon Mobil (XOM) , Chevron (CVX) , Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) and Total (TOT) snap up weaker players.
"There are a number of companies out there that are more leveraged that are going to find it difficult to service their debt at current oil prices," says Scott Bok, CEO of investment bank Greenhill (GHL) . "So I think there will be a lot of restructuring, but also a lot of M&A."
In the short term, however, the oil price slide may actually delay any combinations. That's because the boards of target companies, whose stocks have plunged along with oil prices, don't want to sell those companies at bargain-basement prices.
Still, once energy stocks rebound or industry executives become resigned to the new price environment, weaker companies are likely to look to sell themselves.
Big oil companies were already looking at acquisitions before oil prices fell off a cliff, one investment banker says. He expects major M&A activity to pick up in about six months.
Investors, meanwhile, should be on the lookout for possible candidates. Click through to see three companies that are likely targets.