Some stocks are perpetual take-over targets. They have the right combination of assets that make them almost irresistible to other firms. When it comes to energy stocks, European giant BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) is that firm. But because of its vast size — and $100 billion plus market cap — BP stock has traditionally been just a bridesmaid and never taken to the M&A itself.
Well, BP perpetual top suitor — Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) — may have finally come calling.
Reports have begun to circulate that XOM may finally be preparing to buy BP. Assuming it passes the regulatory mustard, we could be looking at one of the largest energy deals in history. A transformative deal for both XOM and BP stock.
At the same time, the reports are simply just rumors today. There are no guarantees that the deal could be coming true in the weeks ahead.
So will the deal happen? For long-suffering BP shareholders, they better hope so. It could finally be the break they are waiting for.
Deepwater Horizon Disaster Still Hurts BP Stock
Despite being one of the biggest energy stocks in the world, BP has continued to suffer from the fallout of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. If you remember, the 2010 explosion was the largest oil spill in history. BP stock fell more than 50% on the news of the spill and the resulting five years of legal battles caused the firm’s share to be dead money over that time.
Bloomberg notes that during 2010, BP had the same market cap as European rival Royal Dutch Shell plc (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.A, NYSE:RDS.B). Today, BP is only valued at about half as much, despite being a bigger oil producer. Shares of BP stock are still about 30% lower than its peak before the Deepwater disaster.
Part of the reason is the continued legal overhang from the disaster. The end result of the multi-year trial was tens of billions of dollars’ worth of fines and legal woes for BP. Many of which still need to be paid.
With a lower market cap and frustrated shareholders aplenty, rumors have once again begun to make themselves known that BP could be on the table. Over the weekend, London newspaper the Evening Standard reported that XOM had begun to talk to BP’s largest shareholders- – mutual fund powerhouses BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE:BLK) and Vanguard — about their possible votes in a buyout situation.
Analysts peg the buyout could cost Exxon a cool $145.8 billion dollars. And XOM does have the ability to do such a transaction. Its debt levels remain relatively low for an oil firm of its size and its continued buyback programs have resulted in a massive cache of treasury stock that it could use as a bargaining chip in a giant deal like this. The overall lower value of the British pound hasn’t hurt either.
XOM and BP Does Make Some Sense
Analysts have been less than sanguine about the deal. Several have questioned what Exxon would want from BP that it couldn’t get from spending its money elsewhere. But there are really 3 million reasons.
While BP suffered in the face of the disaster, XOM has suffered as well. The firm has not managed to meaningfully grow its production over the last five years. Moreover, the firm’s oil cut — or the amount of oil to natural gas it produces — has been pretty stagnant and it has even dropped in some quarters.
BP produces around 3 million per day in terms of production from key assets in the Gulf of Mexico, North Seas, Middle East and Alaska. The bulk of that production is from oil. Those reserves would certainly help bolster Exxon’s declining oil production by a long shot.
It also makes sense when it comes to Russia. XOM has made inroads into Russia with several big deals. However, recent sanctions have continued to put the brakes on that potential. BP has also been a major backer and investor in Russia’s energy markets. There are certainly synergies there. Even more when you consider President Trump’s plans to lighten up on the sanctions and former Exxon CEO — Rex Tillerson — is now our Sectary of State.
And let’s not forget that BP is sort of a shell of its former self. Having to sell plenty of assets to pay for the spill. By accepting a buyout, it instantly gives its shareholders plenty of its mojo back.
The Deal For BP Stock Might Really Happen
While some have seriously questioned the ability of XOM to get the deal done — the regulatory nightmare could be massive — the reality is, the deal might actually be coming true. Exxon does have a lot to gain from the buyout, while BP’s shareholders could finally feel whole again. And while the costs would be massive, Exxon could get it done.
Contrary to financial analyst opinions, speculating on the deal may actually be a great play. In the meantime, you could collect BP’s large 7% dividend while you wait. And if the merger happens, the end result could be a great set of total returns.
In the end, BP’s suffering could be finally coming to an end.
As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.