* Imperial to take 50 pct of Exxon's Celtic buy
* Brings stake in liquids-rich Montney and Duvernay shales
* May help assure government approvals
* Shares edge higher
CALGARY, Alberta, Nov 28 Imperial Oil Ltd
, Canada's second-largest integrated oil company, said
on Wednesday it will pay C$1.55 billion ($1.56 billion) for a 50
percent stake in Celtic Exploration Ltd after the
unconventional oil and gas producer is taken over by Exxon Mobil
Exxon Mobil, which owns 69.6 percent of Imperial, said in
October that it would buy Celtic for C$2.6 billion to gain its
promising shale oil and gas properties in British Columbia and
Alberta. Imperial has the right to acquire 50 percent of any new
Canadian business launched by its majority owner.
"This acquisition will allow Imperial to diversify its
strong resource base in Canada with an attractive liquids-rich
natural gas play," Chief Executive Bruce March said in a
Analysts said the deal may help speed Canadian approvals for
Exxon's acquisition, though approval may still be delayed while
the government decides whether to allow two larger mergers; the
$15.1 billion acquisition of Nexen Inc by China's CNOOC
Ltd and the C$5.2 billion bid for Progress Energy
Resources Corp by Petronas, Malaysia's state
"We believe this provides additional confidence that the
deal will receive Investment Canada approval as (Imperial) has
operated in Canada since 1899," Andrew Potter, an analyst at
CIBC World Markets, said in a research note.
"Investment Canada approval will likely extend beyond the
initial 45-day review period (expiring on Dec. 31). We expect a
30-day extension, with Investment Canada approval coming some
time in mid to late January"
Imperial, known for its dominant position in the Alberta oil
sands, said the deal includes acquisition of 649,000 net acres
in the liquids-rich Montney and Duvernay shales in Alberta.
A recent study said the province's shale formations,
including Duvernay, Montney and Muskwa, could ultimately contain
3,324 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 58.6 billion barrels
of gas liquids and 423.6 billion barrels of oil.
Imperial said on Wednesday current production in the acreage
being acquired is 72 million cubic feet per day of natural gas
and 4,000 barrels per day of condensate and natural gas liquids.
Imperial's buy-in will occur immediately after Exxon's
Shares of Imperial Oil were up 14 Canadian cents at C$42.65
late on Wednesday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange.