Devon Energy and WPX Energy are discussing a merger to weather the impact of the pandemic on the oil industry, unnamed sources in the know told the Wall Street Journal.
An agreement on a deal could be reached as early as today, with the value of the new entity at some $6 billion based on the two companies’ market caps. The merger will be an all-stock deal, the WSJ sources said.
Both companies have suffered hefty losses in their market valuation recently, with Devon’s share price shedding 64 percent over the past 12 months and WPX Energy losing 57 percent of its value.
The deal, if it goes through, could be a sign of further consolidation down the road. While big energy players are well placed to withstand any crisis even if they have to slash spending and cut jobs, mid-sized independents are much more vulnerable. This is especially true in the U.S. shale patch, where heavily indebted producers are dealing with the twin pressure of the demand-destructive pandemic and shareholders breathing down their necks for higher returns.
A wave of mergers and acquisitions is a hallmark of every downturn in the cyclical industries. This time, however, even this wave was uncertain as the pandemic made potential buyers reluctant to risk their money on even otherwise lucrative assets. If oil demand was not coming back to pre-crisis levels, there was no point to build an oil asset portfolio. Yet the news about Devon and WPX suggests there may still be hope for deals in the oil and gas space.
For many companies in the sector, a merger could be the only way to survive as oil prices appear to be stuck at $40 a barrel: lower than the majority of U.S. shale drillers need to break even, let alone turn in a profit.