U.S. oil deals rebound from first-quarter low, but still muted

FILE PHOTO: A flare burns off excess gas from a gas plant in the Permian Basin oil production area near Wink, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

(Reuters) - The value of deals in the U.S. oil and gas sector rebounded in the second quarter from historic lows in the first, but the bounce-back was muted excluding Occidental Petroleum Corp’s $57 billion Anadarko Petroleum Corp buy, according to data released on Tuesday.

The rebound comes at a time when investors have been pushing shale producers, who have driven a recent merger boom, to focus on lifting shareholder returns rather than production.

The Occidental-Anadarko deal accounted for 88% of the roughly $65 billion worth of deals by U.S. exploration and production companies in the second quarter, energy consultancy Drillinginfo said.

Excluding the mega-merger, second-quarter mergers and acquisitions of $7.6 billion was less than half of the average quarterly total of $19 billion in the 2017-18 period, Drillinginfo's report showed.

“Wall Street, consistent with the message for E&Ps to live within cash flow, has cut off new investment dollars from public markets,” Drillinginfo M&A analyst Andrew Dittmar said.

The report also flagged a lack of widely-anticipated consolidation among public companies after the Occidental-Anadarko deal, primarily attributable to a wide gap in price expectations between buyers and sellers.

With no new investment from Wall Street, smaller producers have also been particularly impacted.

“Some of these smaller companies could evaluate whether they would be better off private,” Dittmar added.

However, mergers where both companies own 50% each of the combined entity were more likely to take place in the future, the report said.

Reporting by Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber