DealZone

M & A wrap: Saudi prince buys Twitter stake

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor in some of the world’s top companies, has bought a stake in Twitter for $300 million, gaining another foothold in the global media industry. Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi Arabia’s king estimated by Forbes magazine in March to have a fortune of $19.6 billion, already owns a 7 percent stake in News Corp and plans to start a cable news channel. The Twitter stake, bought jointly by Alwaleed and his Kingdom Holding Co investment firm, resulted from “months of negotiations,” Kingdom said.

Explorer Gulf Keystone Petroleum is not in talks with U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp about a 7 billion pounds ($10.9 billion) bid, a source familiar with the Kurdistan-focused group’s thinking said on Monday. The Independent on Sunday newspaper reported that Exxon was considering making an estimated 800 pence per share bid – five times Gulf Keystone’s closing share price on Friday. The report, which drove Gulf Keystone’s shares up as much as 24 percent on Monday, said the company’s board had discussed Exxon’s interest a fortnight ago. But a source familiar with Gulf Keystone’s thinking said there were no talks with Exxon.

European Goldfields, which has agreed to a C$2.5 billion ($2.4 billion) takeover by Canadian group Eldorado Gold, is hoping to keep an investment deal with Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund as a fall back option. Qatar Holdings agreed in October to provide a $600 million project financing loan to European Goldfields, which has development stage assets in Greece and Romania, in its first investment in a gold miner. It also provided a $150 million loan note and a related warrant issue, and became a major shareholder, with a 9.9 percent stake. Eldorado’s strong balance sheet means European Goldfields is unlikely to need the cash from Qatar if the takeover goes through — but it does need two-thirds of shareholders to back the deal when they vote in February.

Etihad Airways is taking a stake of almost 30 percent in Germany’s Air Berlin, becoming the first Gulf carrier to challenge European legacy airlines by putting cash on the table to gain scale. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad will spend about 73 million euros ($95 million) to buy new shares of Air Berlin, raising its stake to 29.21 percent from just below 3 percent, and will lend the German carrier $255 million, the two companies said on Monday.

Checking BP’s life signs

Lawmakers are blasting Big Oil on Capitol Hill, but most of the execs from Exxon, Conoco, Chevron etc may have more to gain from the slap-down then they stand to lose if you consider the real target of their ire, BP.

For weeks, with its share price scraping the sea bed, BP has been the subject of take-under talk. Every time another politician assigns another zero to the end of the cost of the clean-up, and each call for BP to cut its dividend, puts the British company’s future further into question.

And why wouldn’t BP’s competitors want to see a weakened rival possibly turn up as cheap easy pieces to pick up in forced asset sales?

Keeping score: Exxon-XTO data points

From the Thomson Reuters data team:

    Exxon Mobil’s $40.7 billion acquisition of XTO Energy ranks as the sixth biggest announced worldwide M&A transaction this year and the fourth biggest US target transaction. The deal ranks as the eighth biggest Energy & Power M&A transaction in history and marks the biggest US transaction since Chevron’s $43.3 billion acquisition of Texaco in October 2000.  The $85.1 billion combination of Exxon and Mobil in December 1998 ranks as the biggest Energy & Power deal on record. Worldwide, energy & power M&A totals $330.9 billion for year-to-date 2009, an 18.1% decrease from last year at this time.  Worldwide M&A in the oil & gas sector totals $203.7 billion, a 17.2% increase over last year at this time. In the US, energy & power M&A accounts for 12.2% of overall activity, a 7.5 decline from last year.  Oil & gas M&A activity in the US totals $74.9 billion, a 35.6% increase over 2008. With the announcement, JP Morgan (advisor to Exxon Mobil), moves from fourth place to third place for worldwide merger advisors, with $467.5 billion in announced deals from 299 deals. Barclays and Jefferies (advisors to XTO Energy) rank 10th and 21st, respectively. In the US, JP Morgan remains in third place with $269.5 billion.  Barclays moves to sixth place from seventh and Jefferies moves from 23rd place to 13th.

Exxon Mobil gasses up

Talk about throwing your weight around. Exxon’s $30 billion all-stock bid for XTO Energy puts a pretty solid stamp on the natural gas space. It also puts Exxon in a better position to capitalize on energy generation, rather than just heating houses and keeping SUV’s guzzlin’.

The world’s largest publicly traded company lit a fuse that has long tantalized M&A markets. The whole natural gas sector jumped on the news, as expectations grew that an elephantine stampede from big oil was underway. Among the gas names that went bang: Chesapeake Energy jumped 7 percent, Devon Energy Corp rose 5.3 percent, and Canada’s EnCana rose as much as 8.7 percent.

U.S. natural gas prices have been under pressure with inventories of the fuel not far from record high levels. But with the winter winds of change blowing through the world’s increasingly environmentally aware corridors of power, as well as the always heat-hungry U.S. Northeast getting deeper into the snow season, the market for natural gas plays may well have started to look overripe.

Where’s the bull? Blackstone’s IPO plans

Time to reap some green shoots? Private equity firm Blackstone plans to list up to eight of its portfolio companies, aiming to make more hay from improved stock markets. Rival Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co’s Dollar General filed for an initial public offering of up to $750 million in August, and KKR is considering others, sources previously told Reuters.

Blackstone is positioning one company — hospital staffing firm Team Health — for an IPO and evaluating the potential for seven others, a source tells us, citing a letter sent from Blackstone to investors. The letter also says Blackstone is in the process of selling five companies outright, which it sees generating aggregate proceeds of $2.8 billion.

One of the exits is Kosmos Energy’s Ghanaian oil interests, the source who has the letter said. Sources previously told Reuters that Exxon Mobil had agreed to buy Kosmos Energy’s stake in the Jubilee field. Kosmos is backed by Blackstone and Warburg Pincus.

Ghana, Ghana, Gone to Exxon

Sources tell us that oil behemoth Exxon Mobil won the bidding in an auction for Kosmos Energy’s stake in the Jubilee field in Ghana, one of the biggest oil discoveries in recent years. Analysts have said the stake could be worth up to $5 billion.

Private equity-backed Kosmos put its interests in the multibillion-barrel field, which it co-owns with Irish oil explorer Tullow Oil and Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum, on the market earlier this year.

Huge interest in the stake was reported. India’s ONGC, China’s CNOOC and even Ghana’s own National Petroleum Corp all expressed interest at some point over the summer. Other corporate interests thought to be bidding included BP, Shell Oil and ENI SpA.