Thursday, January 30, 2014

American Energy Partners Purchases Hess Ohio Utica Shale Fields

American Energy Partners LP, led by Aubrey McClendon, continues to bulk up in Ohio's Utica Shale, purchasing natural-gas fields from Hess Corp. for $924 million.

Hess struck an agreement to sell 74,000 acres in the Utica to an undisclosed buyer. The company has sold more than $7.8 billion in assets over the past year to raise cash and narrow its focus on growing oil output in the U.S.

Hess issued fourth-quarter financial results on Wednesday, reporting a profit of $1.93 billion, up from $374 million in the year-ago period. It will use the proceeds from the Utica sale to repurchase stock.

Aubrey McClendon
It was a year ago today that Mr. McClendon, then chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp., said he was resigning from the company he co-founded. His ouster came after clashes with that company's largest shareholders over Chesapeake's aggressive capital spending. Within months, Mr. McClendon launched closely held American Energy Partners, building it with acquisitions in the gas-rich Utica, including a $284 million acquisition from privately held EnerVest Ltd. and its publicly traded affiliate.

American Energy Partners said in October it had raised $1.7 billion in equity and debt, led by private-equity fund The Energy & Minerals Group. The fund is run by John Raymond, who sits on the board of American Energy's Utica-focused company, as does his father, former Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Lee Raymond. John Raymond's fund also chipped in to the latest venture to buy interests in wells across the country.

Hess still has roughly 86,000 acres in the Utica that it is drilling in partnership with Consol Energy Inc.  Most of those holdings are in areas where wells yield liquids that can be turned into ethane and propane and are currently more valuable than natural gas. Hess plans to boost Utica spending this year by 71% to $550 million.  By contrast, the acreage Hess sold to American Energy Partners is dry natural gas.  (WSJ, 1/29/2014)

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