Global energy players in $2.2 billion mega-deal for Australian assets

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Santos has acquired ConocoPhillips’ northern Australia business, including operating interests in Darwin LNG, Bayu-Undan, Barossa and Poseidon, for $US1.39 billion ($A2.2 billion) plus a $A75 million contingent payment subject to final investment decision (FID) on Barossa.

According to a statement released by Santos, the mega-deal will deliver the company operatorship and control of strategic LNG infrastructure with growth potential. The deal also advances and supports Santos’ goal of taking Barossa FID by early 2020.

Santos Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Gallagher, said Santos has enjoyed a long-established relationship with ConocoPhillips which has operated its northern Australia natural gas assets for many years.

“Santos was a founding partner with ConocoPhillips in Darwin LNG, which has been operating since 2006. The acquisition of these assets fully aligns with Santos’ growth strategy to build on existing infrastructure positions while advancing our aim to be a leading regional LNG supplier,” Mr Gallagher said.

“This acquisition delivers operatorship and control of strategic LNG infrastructure at Darwin, with approvals in place supporting expansion to 10mtpa, and the low-cost, long-life Barossa gas project.

“These assets are well known to Santos. It also continues to strengthen our offshore operating and development expertise and capabilities to drive growth in offshore northern and Western Australia.

“Santos is also committed to being Australia’s leading domestic gas supplier and we will be pursuing domestic gas opportunities in the Northern Territory from our broader northern Australia gas portfolio where we have significant resource potential both onshore and offshore.

“Santos intends to manage gearing within our stated operating range and is targeting to sell-down equity in Darwin LNG and Barossa to 40-50 per cent in order to create alignment between joint venture participants as well as by optimising equity levels in our Western Australia assets.

“We are also in discussions with existing Darwin LNG joint-venture partners to sell equity in Barossa and further equity in Darwin LNG and also with LNG buyers for offtake volumes. Santos will target the contracting of ~60-80 per cent of LNG volumes for 10+ years prior to taking FID on Barossa, which is expected by early 2020. Discussions to date have demonstrated strong interest in Barossa LNG, given it is a brownfield upstream development located close to North Asian demand.

“The acquisition is value accretive for Santos shareholders in year one following completion across a range of metrics and importantly further reduces our free cash flow breakeven oil price by approximately $US4 per barrel in 2020.

“As we have demonstrated following the acquisition and integration of Quadrant Energy into our offshore business, Santos’ low-cost operating model is creating opportunities for disciplined growth across Australia.

“We look forward to welcoming ConocoPhillips’ Australia-West employees to Santos and combining the two businesses to create one high performing team with a wide range of exciting career opportunities across Santos,” Mr Gallagher said.

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