HOUSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Private equity firm Kimmeridge Energy Management Co said on Thursday it had boosted its stake in Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc (CRZO.O) by more than 65 percent and wants the U.S. shale producer to sell assets or combine with a rival to boost its share price.
The move comes as investors have grown increasingly fed up with the U.S. shale industry’s spendthrift ways and are pushing producers to improve shareholder returns and focus less on output.
“Our goal is essentially to put management on notice that we believe they have to do something” within a year, Ben Dell, managing director of Kimmeridge, said in an interview.
Houston-based Carrizo said on Thursday evening that it agrees its assets should be valued higher by the market, but rejected Kimmeridge’s push for divestitures.
“While the company expects to continue to supplement its development program by evaluating other opportunities in the market, it will only pursue any of these if it deems them to be accretive to, and in the best interest of, all shareholders,” Carrizo said in a statement.
Shares of Carrizo closed up over 11 percent at $17.15. The stock had lost about half its value in the past year to Wednesday’s close, despite a rise in crude oil prices CLc1.
New York-based Kimmeridge now owns or controls about 8.1 percent of Carrizo’s float, roughly 6.6 million shares, according to a regulatory filing. The firm, which is now the company’s fourth-largest shareholder, previously held about 4.9 percent of shares, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Carrizo should sell its Eagle Ford shale acreage in East Texas to cull debt and focus entirely on its operations in the Permian Basin, the largest U.S. oilfield, Kimmeridge said.
“If management wanted us to run the company, we’d be happy to do that, too,” Dell said, adding that Kimmeridge has held Permian acreage in the past and is comfortable operating oil assets.
“We are not your classical New York activist hedge fund with a short duration model.”
Kimmeridge said Carrizo should also consider a stock buyback or a merger with a Permian rival.
Kimmeridge said in the filing that it was concerned about Carrizo’s debt, up 80 percent in the past five years at $1.63 billion, more than the company’s market valuation.
Carrizo lost $17 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 even as its production jumped 13 percent to 62,417 barrels of oil equivalent.
Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston and Liana Baker in New York, Additional reporting by David French in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas and Rosalba O'Brien