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Baker Hughes to buy BJ Services in $5.5B deal

/ Source: The Associated Press

Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said Monday that it will buy BJ Services Co. in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $5.5 billion, a move that could kick off further consolidation in the industry.

The combined company will provide customers with a one-stop shop for a variety of oilfield services, and allows Baker Hughes to diversify its product offering and to compete better with rivals Schlumberger Ltd. and Halliburton Co.

This deal could be the first of many acquisitions in the industry, said Chris Sheehan, director of M&A Research at IHS Herold Inc. Sheehan said small- to mid-size companies that specialize in international deepwater drilling and production oil services are particularly well positioned to be acquired.

“For companies to gain a competitive or technical edge...players in this sector would find it advantageous to seek strategic acquisitions,” Sheehan said in a phone interview. Following the move by Baker Hughes, Sheehan expects further consolidation in the oilfield services sector, especially among companies focused in unconventional shale gas.

These players specialize in accessing hard-to-reach shale gas fields through such methods as pressure pumping.

Notably, Baker Hughes will gain BJ Services’ pressure pumping business, which will help clients with such unconventional gas and deepwater fields, said Chad Deaton, Baker Hughes chairman, president and CEO.

“It will better position us to drive international growth and to compete for the growing large integrated projects by incorporating pressure pumping into our product offering,” he said. Integrated oil companies are active in all phases of the business including production, refining, transportation and marketing.

Pressure pumping made up less than 1 percent of Baker Hughes 2008 revenue, but is expected to comprise about 20 percent of the company’s revenue after the deal is complete. Pressure pumping injects liquid or gas into wells to increase the amount of recoverable oil or natural gas. This added business will boost Baker Hughes’ total revenue near levels of its two largest competitors, the company noted. Schlumberger Ltd. is the world’s largest oilfield services company, with Halliburton Co. just behind it in size.

Pritchard Capital Partners analyst Stephen Berman said the combined company will have BJ Services’ pressure pumping franchise and Baker Hughes’ international market share.

But Wachovia analyst Tom Curran remained skeptical. While he expects the deal to help the company compete in bidding for foreign integrated projects in the long term, he believes excess capacity in North American pressure pumping and the timing of the deal will hurt the company in the near term.

“Baker Hughes will likely come under fire for not closing on this deal when BJ Services was much cheaper,” Curran said. BJ Services shares have risen more than 32 percent this year.

In a conference call this morning, Deaton explained that the timing of the deal made sense. He believes that the energy market has reached a bottom, international markets will grow and oil prices have reached a “decent” level.

Since the beginning of the year the price of crude oil has gained 57 percent. The price of natural gas has shed more than 47 percent of its value. On Monday, benchmark crude for October delivery lost $2.78 to settle at $69.96 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Natural gas shed 5.6 cents to settle at $2.977 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The acquisition is expected to produce $75 million in cost savings for Baker Hughes in 2010 and $150 million in 2011, and add to earnings per share in 2011.

The deal is valued at $5.5 billion based on Friday’s closing prices. BJ stockholders will receive 0.40035 shares of Baker Hughes and $2.69 in cash for each share they own. The deal represents a 16.3 percent premium to BJ’s $15.43 Friday closing stock price, the companies said.

Shares of Baker Hughes fell $3.64, or 9.6 percent, to close Monday at $34.45. BJ Services shares jumped 63 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $16.06.

BJ’s shareholders will have an approximately 27.5 percent stake in Baker Hughes once the acquisition closes, and two BJ services board members will join Baker’s board.

The is the first major oil services takeover of the year. After larger oil companies reaped hefty profits from last year’s crude and gas price rally, some analysts predicted that crumbling stock and crude prices would make smaller oil and gas companies potential takeover targets.

Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC and other oil giants find it increasingly difficult to secure new sources of fossil fuels the old-fashioned way — by simply exploring and drilling for them.

Smaller producers that don’t have the same massive capital reserves have been stung by a credit crisis that’s severely limited or even paralyzed their ability to finance new exploration and production.

In July BJ Services posted a net loss for its fiscal third quarter, citing declining demand for oil and natural gas amid global economic weakness.

The company reported a fiscal third-quarter loss of $32.3 million compared with earnings of $141.8 million during the same period last year.

Revenue slid 41 percent to $786.9 million.

The acquisition, which has approval from both companies’ boards, may close by year’s end. It still needs the approval of both companies’ shareholders.