BY Richard Summerfield
Over half of the companies operating in the oil & gas sector are contemplating acquisitions in the coming 12 months, according to a new report from EY.
The report – EY’s 'Oil and Gas Capital Confidence Barometer' – which surveyed 112 oil & gas company executives, notes that the industry is in the process of rebounding from the adverse effects of the recent sharp decline in oil prices. As a result, 56 percent of surveyed firms believe they will “actively pursue acquisitions” over the next 12 months – more than double the number of executives who responded similarly in October 2014.
"For the first time in five years, more than half our respondents are planning acquisitions in the next 12 months, as deal pipelines continue to expand," said EY global vice chair for transaction advisory services Pip McCrostie. However, despite the recent acquisition of BG Group by Royal Dutch Shell, the main focus for acquiring companies will not be big ticket mega-mergers. Indeed, most acquiring companies – 70 percent of respondents – are likely to focus on mid-market transactions, with the majority of deals expected to be pitched at around $250m. A further 24 percent of surveyed firms are planning acquisitions of between $251m and $1bn, while just 4 percent of companies are believed to be considering deals worth in excess of $1bn.
The survey was conducted in February and March when Brent crude price averaged below $60 per barrel; accordingly, many of those executives surveyed felt that an improvement in the oil & gas space was inevitable. Ninety-nine percent of respondents felt that the overall deal market would improve or remain stable over the next 12 months. A further 97 percent expressed similar confidence in the global economy.
Despite the resurgence of confidence in the oil & gas sector’s deal environment, residual macroeconomic concerns may still curtail some M&A activity. Increasing volatility in commodities and currencies, as well as persistent disruptive geopolitical influences, cast a potential shadow over future deal activity. In order to mitigate these risks, firms in the oil & gas space will attempt to cut costs and achieve synergies while continuing to look for opportunistic acquisitions.