EXCLUSIVE U.S. slows down oil and gas mergers-sources

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NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – U.S. antitrust regulators have prolonged the approval course of for no less than 5 oil and gasoline mergers and acquisitions within the final three months, as President Joe Biden’s administration scrutinizes offers in a bid to sort out hovering vitality costs, in line with regulatory filings and company legal professionals.

The slowdown comes amid rising strain on policymakers to reply to client angst over skyrocketing retail gasoline costs, as U.S. crude futures hit multi-year highs. The White Home has been calling U.S. oil and gasoline producers to ask how they can assist decrease costs, .

The transfer can be emblematic of a brand new push by the Federal Commerce Fee (FTC) to guard shoppers, staff, the atmosphere and society at giant. Underneath its new chair Lina Khan, the antitrust regulator has taken a troublesome stance on offers starting from expertise to healthcare.

Such scrutiny is uncommon within the oil and gasoline sector, the place offers sometimes sail previous regulators, greater than a dozen trade sources, together with legal professionals and bankers advising on vitality offers, mentioned in interviews.

It is because these firms promote their output to a world market, and regional consolidation has no influence on vitality costs dictated by provide and demand worldwide.

Maureen Ohlhausen, chair of antitrust & competitors legislation at Baker Botts LLP, who served as performing FTC chair from January 2017 till April 2018 underneath the earlier Trump administration, known as the scrutiny unprecedented.

“Despite the fact that earlier Democratic FTC commissioners wished energetic enforcement, the trade was advised what the requirements have been, offers received reviewed and issues moved alongside. That is actually completely different,” Ohlhausen mentioned.

“I imagine the FTC Chair, successfully, wish to deter mergers.”

An FTC spokesperson declined to remark.

The FTC is subjecting extra offers to so-called second requests, in search of further info and paperwork, the deal advisers mentioned and the filings present. Second requests can delay regulatory clearance of offers by a number of months.

“I’m conscious of two mergers within the final couple of months the place FTC workers didn’t see a must problem a second request however have been overruled by their administration,” mentioned Darren Tucker, chair of the antitrust follow at legislation agency Vinson & Elkins LLP. He declined to call the 2 offers.

Among the many proposed transactions that acquired second requests in September have been HollyFrontier Corp’s $2.6 billion buy of Sinclair Oil and Vertex Power Inc’s $140 million sale of motor oil assortment and recycling property to Security-Kleen Programs Inc, the regulatory filings present.

Non-public fairness agency EnCap Investments’ proposed $1.5 billion acquisition of oil and gasoline producer EP Power additionally acquired a second request in latest weeks, in line with folks accustomed to the matter.

EnCap and EP Power didn’t reply to remark requests.

Sources indicated there have been different transactions which have acquired second requests in latest weeks however declined to determine them.

Second requests involving oil and gasoline producers are uncommon, and it’s extra frequent for the FTC to scrutinize offers involving pipelines and gasoline stations. Pipeline operator Power Switch LP mentioned in Might it acquired a second request on its proposed $7.2 billion takeover of Allow Midstream Companions LP .


The FTC’s scrutiny threatens to place the brakes on dealmaking within the oil patch, which had already dropped to $18.5 billion of mergers and acquisitions between U.S. oil and gasoline producers within the third quarter, down from $33.4 billion within the second quarter, in line with information analytics agency Enverus.

Reuters Graphics

The White Home has been public with its requests for the FTC to behave because the reopening of economies all over the world within the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic drives up vitality consumption. Brian Deese, director of the Nationwide Financial Council, wrote to FTC Chair Khan in August hovering vitality costs.

Khan responded that the FTC will scrutinize consolidation amongst gasoline station operators, but additionally have a look at dealmaking within the vitality trade extra broadly.

The Biden White Home has already irked the oil and gasoline trade by making local weather change a precedence in its administrative agenda. It briefly halted the issuance of recent leases for drilling on federal land and has proposed to finish some fossil gasoline subsidies. Power firms argue these strikes will push up vitality prices.

To make sure, it isn’t clear whether or not the FTC will search to dam any of the vitality offers it has subjected to second requests.

The regulator has not challenged a serious merger of oil and gasoline producers since BP Plc’s $27 billion acquisition of Atlantic Richfield Co in 2000. It sued to dam the merger and solely agreed to drop its objections after BP supplied to divest oil manufacturing acreage in Alaska.

A serious check for the FTC might be Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s proposed $9.5 billion acquisition of ConocoPhillips’ Permian Basin property. It was introduced final month, and any FTC second request could be made within the coming weeks.

Shell and ConocoPhillips declined remark.

Reporting by David French in New York and Diane Bartz in Washington; Extra reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Modifying by Greg Roumeliotis and Richard Pullin


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