Chevron to boost U.S. presence with $7.6 billion PDC Energy buy

Reuters | May 22, 2023

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By Sabrina Valle

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Chevron Corp said on Monday it is increasing its U.S. oil and gas footprint by acquiring shale producer PDC Energy Inc in a stock-and-debt transaction worth $7.6 billion.

For Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil firm, the deal will increase its production, capital expenditures and cash flow in the United States amid global geopolitical tensions over energy supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

“It’s a strong investment in our business in the U.S.”, Chief Executive Michael Wirth told Reuters in an interview.

American oil majors have been called out for criticism by President Joe Biden for not increasing output in the United States as fuel prices spiked for consumers last year. The deal is consistent with those calls, Wirth said, while adding value to shareholders.

Analysts in recent months have been questioning Chevron’s ability to counter worries that the company’s core U.S. shale properties are in decline following poor performance in the Permian basin of West Texas and New Mexico last year.

“We expect these concerns on the Permian may linger,” said Biraj Borkhataria, research analyst with RBC Europe.

The deal values Denver-based PDC at $72 per share, about a 14% premium to its 10-day average ending Friday. It is expected to close by year-end, the companies said.

The acquisition will add 10% to Chevron’s reserves and lift its capital expenditures and free cash flow by about $1 billion within a year of the deal closing.

In morning trading, Chevron lost less than 1%, while PDC Energy rose 9%.

The acquisition will add 260,000 barrels of oil and gas production per day (boed) to Chevron’s output in the DJ basin, making its operations in Colorado one of the company’s top five business assets in terms of production, Wirth said.

PDC Energy produces about 25,000 barrels per day in the Permian basin, where Chevron is delivering 700,000 boed.

The properties it is acquiring are “high-quality inventory,” said Andrew Dittmar, who specializes in M&A at researcher Enverus. The price values PDC at about its current production rate, Dittmar said, describing the untapped reserves that come with it as “essentially free.”

Executives at San Ramon, California-based Chevron have been saying since last year that the company was looking for U.S. acquisitions. The company also recently flagged it wanted to reduce its cash stockpile in a way that would enhance shareholder profitability. Buyback guidance was kept unchanged.

“We’re repurchasing shares at a rate of $17.5 billion per year,” Wirth said, adding that the shares exchanged for the properties represent less than two quarters of share repurchases. “So we’d buy those shares back very quickly.”

The company has been under pressure on Wall Street to show it can keep expanding production after 2027 at its main shale holdings in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico.

The deal will hike Chevron’s capital spending by about $1 billion per year, raising its annual range to $14 billion to $16 billion through 2027, the company said.

Chevron is one of the top producers in the Denver-Julesburg Basin after its $13 billion acquisition of Noble Energy in 2020.

With the acquisition of PDC, Chevron will add 10% to its proved reserves at a projected cost of less than $7 per barrel, the company said in a statement.

Wirth said the deal does not stop the company from evaluating other potential acquisitions.

“We never stopped looking,” Wirth said. “We look for things that have a strategic fit with our portfolio that create value for shareholders.”

(Reporting by Sabina Valle in Houston and Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham, Krishna Chandra Eluri and Sharon Singleton)