June 10, 2019 / 11:14 AM / 10 days ago

Jerry Jones' gas firm Comstock pays $1.1 billion for Haynesville producer

(Reuters) - Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones strengthened his company Comstock Resources Inc’s grip on one of the largest natural gas basins in the United States with a $1.1 billion deal to buy privately held Covey Park.

The cash-and-stock deal will more than triple Comstock’s position in Louisiana’s Haynesville basin, making the combined company the largest operator in the region. Net production will also more than double to over 1.13 billion cubic feet equivalent per day.

Natural gas output at Haynesville, located in northern Louisiana and eastern Texas, is projected to be the second-fastest growing among shale basins this month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The basin rose to prominence in 2008 after rival Chesapeake Energy Corp said Haynesville may hold 20 trillion cubic feet equivalent of potential reserves.

Jones, who first invested in Comstock in April last year, will infuse an additional $475 million in Comstock, taking his total investment to $1.1 billion, the company said.

The billionaire will also remain Comstock’s largest shareholder with a 75% stake, while energy-focused private equity firm Denham Capital will be second with a 16% interest.

Covey Park’s equity owners will receive $700 million in cash, $210 million of newly issued preferred stock and 28.8 million new Comstock shares for $6.00 per share, the companies said.

The deal, expected to close by July 31, will generate over $25 million in annual general and administrative savings.

The enterprise value of the deal, including debt, adds up to $2.2 billion. Bloomberg reported in October, citing sources, that Comstock had expressed interest in buying Covey.

“You must look at this transaction as a shot heard round the (Haynesville) basin that CRK truly does intend to consolidate the basin into a singular, low-cost production juggernaut,” said Dallas Salazar, CEO of energy consulting firm Atlas Consulting.

“There was doubt regarding CRK’s ability to execute a transaction - given wide bid/ask spreads in the M&A market, an apparent lack of sense of urgency by CRK management ... but that doubt has been put to bed now,” said Salazar, who will own less than 1% of Comstock following the deal.

Comstock Chief Executive Officer Jay Allison will lead the combined company, while the board will be expanded to include Covey Park’s co-CEO John Jacobi and Denham Capital Managing Partner Jordan Marye.

Wells Fargo Securities, LLC and BMO Capital Markets are financial advisers to Comstock.

Comstock shares were last up 2.5% at $4.54 in volatile premarket trading. Chesapeake Energy Corp shares were up 2.12%.

“We continue to see the need for additional industry consolidation of the (Haynesville) basin to gain meaningful scale,” Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co analysts said.

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Anil D'Silva

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