State of Wyoming to bid on Occidental Petroleum's land, minerals properties

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The state of Wyoming will bid on a package of land and minerals in Wyoming and Colorado owned by troubled Occidental Petroleum Corp, public officials agreed on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: The logo for Occidental Petroleum is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The company has been struggling with debt taken on in last year’s $38 billion acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum, an ill-timed bet on rising shale oil prices ahead of a market crash.

Wyoming’s State Loan and Investment Board held a public hearing on Monday before voting unanimously to bid on the properties.

If the state is successful in its bid, terms will be subject to approval by the board, which also voted to hold four public hearings on any potential purchase in locations throughout the state.

Occidental acquired the land and minerals with its 2019 purchase of Anadarko. It is the largest private landowner in Wyoming, where it is focused mainly on development in the Powder River Basin.

The sale includes about 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of land and 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) in mineral rights once owned by the federal government, sold to Union Pacific Railroad and later acquired by Anadarko.

Several people complained during Monday’s hearing that the state had not been transparent about the process, but Patrick Fleming, chief investment officer for the Wyoming treasurer’s office, said it was not possible to say publicly what the state would bid.

“It’s like playing poker. We’d have our cards facing everyone else,” Fleming said.

State Auditor Kristi Racines said many felt “understandable frustration” and suggested the additional public hearings.

Occidental declined to comment. It received 13 bids in the first round of its sales process, Chief Executive Vicki Hollub told analysts during a May 6 earnings call, adding the company expected to be able to close on that asset by early in the fourth quarter.

Reporting by Jennifer Hiller; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney