Recently completed deals
On 15 April 2014, Magellan Petroleum received the final A$5 million payment for the sale of its onshore Australian assets (including the Palm Valley and Dingo projects) to ASX-listed exploration and production company Central Petroleum Limited. In total, Magellan has received A$20 million in cash from Central Petroleum, and 39.5 million newly issued shares in Central Petroleum stock, giving Magellan an approximate 11% ownership interest. Magellan is now Central Petroleum’s largest shareholder.
In the February 2014 edition of the Australian Energy Sector Update we reported on Baytex’s proposed acquisition of ASX-listed Aurora Oil & Gas. The deal would see Baytex’s wholly owned subsidiary, Baytex Energy Australia, purchase all the shares in Aurora for a cash consideration of A$4.10 per share pursuant to a proposed scheme of arrangement (Scheme). On 11 April 2014, Aurora announced that Baytex received written notification from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) confirming that FIRB has no objection to the deal, satisfying one of the conditions precedent to implementation of the Scheme. On 14 April 2014, Aurora also announced that the Federal Court of Australia has approved the dispatch of the Scheme booklet and has ordered that a meeting of Aurora shareholders be convened to consider and vote on Baytex’s proposed acquisition. On 11 April 2014, ASX-listed integrated energy company Energy Developments Limited announced its entry into a conditional sale and purchase agreement to acquire Envirogen, the Australian waste coal mine gas (WCMG) power generation business. Envirogen owns and operates three WCMG power stations in New South Wales at the Tahmoor Colliery, Teralba Colliery and Glennies Creek Coal Mine, and one in Queensland at the Oaky Creek Coal Mine. With a combined capacity of 43 MW, these power stations provide methane abatement and clean energy solutions for miners Glencore Xstrata and Vale and will add to Energy Development’s existing portfolio of over 200 MW of WCMG power generation assets and existing partnerships with leading coal producers Anglo American and BHP Illawarra Coal.
In the April 2014 edition of the Australian Energy Sector Update we reported on Landbridge Group’s conditional notice of intention to make a conditional off-market takeover bid (Conditional Offer) for Brisbane-based coal seam gas producer, WestSide Corporation, for A$0.36 per share. In a letter to shareholders dated 16 April 2014, WestSide said that the Conditional Offer price of A$0.36 per share was “manifestly inadequate”. On 24 April 2014, Landbridge increased its interest in WestSide from 8.7% to 19.99% in what an article in The Australian called a “lighting raid” of the WestSide register in which Landbridge reportedly secured the 11.3% stake of Infrastructure Capital Group, formerly WestSide’s second largest shareholder. The “raid” was accompanied by Landbridge’s announcement that it has withdrawn its intention to proceed with the A$0.36 bid and is replacing it with a new conditional off-market takeover bid for A$0.40 per WestSide share, which values the company at over A$178 million. On 6 May 2014, WestSide’s board, in a letter to shareholders, recommended that shareholders do not accept Landbridge’s conditional offer for A$0.40 per WestSide share. WestSide’s letter said Landbridge’s offer does not represent fair value for the company as, amongst other things, it fails to adequately recognise the full value of the company’s recently announced binding 20 year gas sale agreement to sell gas to the GLNG Project. ASX-listed petroleum explorer Bass Strait Oil Company Ltd announced on 10 April 2014 that it has commenced a formal divestment process for its offshore Gippsland Basin portfolio comprising 64.565% owned Vic/P41 and 100% owned Vic/P68 located off the south east coast of Victoria. Chief Executive Steven Noske said that the company “intends to use any proceeds from the potential divestment of its Gippsland Basin acreage to continue to invest in new opportunities in the oil and gas sector and will remain focused on oil and gas exploration and development activities moving forward.” Bass Strait has engaged GMP Securities Australia to assist with the divestment process and execution of its forward strategy.
Market rumours and opportunities
Further to the March and April editions of the Australian Energy Sector Update, on 22 April 2014 an unsourced report in The Australian Financial Review speculated that Woodside Petroleum may look for alternative international expansion opportunities as its US$2.71 billion acquisition of a 25% interest in the Leviathan gas project, located off the west coast of Israel, is still yet to be finalised. Woodside is reportedly believed to be trying to fill a production gap until its Browse floating LNG project commences production. The article suggested that Woodside may therefore seek expansion opportunities closer to Australia, with Papua New Guinea-based Oil Search a potential target. In spite of these rumours, in his report at Woodside’s Annual General Meeting on 30 April 2014, CEO Peter Coleman said “discussions continue with the [Leviathan joint venture] parties and the Israeli Government with a view to resolving the remaining issues and executing definitive agreements”. On 23 April 2014, another unsourced article in The Australian Financial Review reported that BG Group is expected to launch a formal sales process for A$4 billion in pipeline infrastructure related to its Curtis LNG project later this quarter. Infrastructure assets potentially up for sale include a 540 kilometre buried natural gas pipeline which links the gas fields in Queensland’s Surat Basin to Gladstone. BG has reportedly held initial meetings with potential buyers in Brisbane. Enbridge, the Canada-based pipeline group, is thought to be part of a consortium planning to bid for the assets, which includes Industry Funds Management and Queensland Investment Corporation. Hastings Funds Management may have partnered with Canada’s Borealis to form another bidding group. Other parties believed to be interested include Australian Super, Germany’s Allianz, Canada Pension Plan, and GIC. APA Group is also reportedly expected to compete for the asset. The article considered that while a sale is possible this year, it is more likely that a deal would be reached in 2015. According to a recent Mergermarket article, Perth-based oil and gas company, Buru Energy, is seeking a long term partner to undertake a farm-out at its acreage in the under-explored Canning Superbasin, located in the southwest Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. Buru’s portfolio includes a conventional oil discovery at the Ungani oilfield and the tight gas resources of the Laurel Formation, where a potentially large-scale gas and hydrocarbon liquid resource has been identified. Buru already has a joint venture with Japan’s largest trading company, Mitsubishi Corporation. Buru’s Managing Director, Keiran Wulff, reportedly said the basin is too large to just have two companies operating in the region so the company is looking to introduce “strong partners with the right expertise and long term commitment [to the region].” In November 2013, Apache Corporation farmed into a number of the Buru/Mitsubishi joint venture exploration permits in the Canning Basin, primarily covering the Goldwyer Shale areas of the joint venture’s portfolio. Further to the March and April editions of the Australian Energy Sector Update, The Australian Financial Review reported on 16 April 2014 that Australian petrol retailer, United Petroleum, has resumed its sale process after discussions with South Korean energy company S-Oil were terminated because of issues concerning the price. The article noted that other potential bidders may include SK Group, Affinity Equity Partners and an unnamed European trading house. The Queensland State Government is reportedly contemplating the sale of debt in the State’s electricity distribution networks as an alternative to privatisation. According to the Street Talk column in The Australian Financial Review on 23 April 2014, by only selling debt, the Government would be able to uphold its promise not to sell assets without an election mandate while still relieving pressure on the State’s balance sheet. The article noted that a deal would be similar to a conventional privatisation, with board seats potentially being offered to debt buyers as a form of control. This report follows The Australian’s prediction the day before that both the Queensland and New South Wales Governments may put infrastructure, including ports, roads and electricity assets, on the market in the next 18 months. According to another report on 18 April 2014 in the same newspaper, the Western Australian Government is also looking into the possible sale of some of its port, power, and water assets and has engaged Ernst & Young to evaluate the potential divestment.
CONSULTATION HAS COMMENCED ON DRAFT LEGISLATIVE AMENDMENTS RELATING TO PROPOSED OVERLAPPING TENURE REFORM IN QUEENSLAND A recent bulletin released by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) reported that preparation of a new overlapping tenure framework has begun with broad industry consultation this month on draft legislation. The framework is based on a 2012 joint industry initiative titled Maximising Utilisation of Queensland’s Coal and Coal Seam Gas Resources: A New Approach to Overlapping Tenure in Queensland and aims to simplify legislation, clarify the requirements for grant of tenure and provide clearer timeframes to reduce delays caused by overlapping tenure issues. If successful, this legislative reform will provide a direct path to granting tenure for coal and petroleum/coal seam gas production, which the QRC says will effectively remove the right of veto for the first mover over the area. The new legislation is expected to be introduced by June 2014 as part of the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014 with implementation by the end of the year. According to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM), existing requirements for gaining tenure, including native title obligations, obtaining an Environmental Authority, and reaching access and compensation arrangements with landholders, will not change under the new legislation. DNRM says the new legislation will include arrangements to ensure a smooth transition for existing and future resource authority holders and that special transitional provisions will be put in place for a defined area of the Surat Basin to take into account the importance of the Surat Basin to the State’s CSG-to-LNG industry. Under the foreshadowed special transitional arrangements, the notice period for the commencement of mining will be extended from 10 to 15 years where a coal mining lease overlaps a petroleum lease. These arrangements are proposed to apply to all production leases granted under the new framework up to the end of 2016.
RISING GAS PRICES IN NEW SOUTH WALES On 23 April 2014, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal released a draft decision allowing for an average increase in regulated gas prices in New South Wales of 17.6% in the 2014-15 financial year. This means that from 1 July 2014, standard annual gas bills may increase by up to A$225 for households, depending on where they are located and how much gas they use. Tribunal Chairman, Dr Peter Boxall, said the increase is largely due to rising wholesale gas prices and that the draft decisions are based on the Tribunal’s assessment of proposals submitted by gas retailers. Dr Boxall noted that most NSW gas consumers are already on market contracts rather than regulated prices and anticipates “further competition among retailers as a result of electricity price deregulation.” BREE PREDICTS AN INCREASE IN RESOURCES AND ENERGY COMMODITY EXPORT EARNINGS The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) recently released its Resources and Energy Quarterly Report for the March 2014 quarter. Based on an outlook period of 2014-15 to 2018-19, BREE predicts the outlook for the world economy will be “largely positive” and, although slowing, that China’s medium term economic growth will be over 7% per year. According to the Report, Australia’s revenue from resources and energy commodities is projected to increase at an average rate of 8% per year from 2013-14 to approximately A$284 billion in 2018-19. Despite weaker commodity prices, export growth in the short term will be driven by higher volumes in coal and iron ore. As new LNG production commences, the Report states that LNG will become one of Australia’s principal exports. In nominal terms, the Report predicts the value of LNG exports to increase by around 340% over the outlook period as new facilities developed over the past three years commence production. BREE forecasts that Australia will produce Other news approximately 62 billion cubic metres of gas in 2013-14, similar to production figures in 2012-13. The Report refers to seven LNG projects currently under construction in Australia being the Australia Pacific LNG, Gladstone LNG and Queensland Curtis LNG projects in Queensland, and the Gorgon, Wheatstone, Ichthys and Prelude projects off the north west coast of Western Australia. When these projects come online, BREE predicts gas production in Australia will more than double to 151 billion cubic metres in 2018-19. QUEENSLAND DRAFT WIND FARM CODE RELEASED FOR PUBLIC COMMENT The Queensland Government released a draft Wind Farm Code for public consultation on 6 May 2014. Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure zand assessment of wind farm development across Queensland and, once finalised, will be integrated into the State Development Assessment Provisions. This means that the responsibility for assessment of all wind farm proposals will be transferred from local governments to the State. The draft Code is available for public comment until 13 May 2014 and can be viewed here. More information about the Code can be found here. FINAL DATE FOR SUBMISSIONS ON FEDERAL INQUIRY INTO STREAMLINING ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION AND REDUCING GREEN TAPE EXTENDED On 27 February 2014, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment announced an inquiry into streamlining environmental regulation, “green tape” and “one-stop-shops” for environmental assessments and approvals following a referral by the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt. The inquiry will have particular regard to jurisdictional arrangements, regulatory requirements, the balance between regulatory burdens and environmental benefits, areas for improved regulatory efficiency and effectiveness, and the potential for deregulation. The closing date for submissions to the Committee was extended from 11 April to 30 April 2014. More information about the inquiry can be found here.