Silver Run Acquisition Corp (>> Silver Run Acquisition Corp), run by energy industry veteran Mark Papa, has taken a stake in privately held Centennial Resource Development LLC and plans to develop the crude producer's Texas shale acreage, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The move by Silver Run, which went public in February with the aim of investing in U.S. energy companies, is the latest sign that major investors are moving more quickly to secure assets and acreage at depressed prices as U.S. crude prices climb off 2016 lows.
It also a marks a fresh bet by Silver Lake's backers on the leadership of Papa, who helped make EOG Resources Inc (>> EOG Resources Inc) a Wall Street darling.
The Silver Lake purchase comes after a subsidiary of energy-focused private equity firm Riverstone Holdings LLC bought a majority stake in Centennial earlier this month.
That deal effectively ended Centennial's plans to file the first initial public offering (IPO) of a U.S. oil producer since the crude price <CLc1> crash began in 2014.
Because Riverstone has a stake in and sponsors Silver Run, the deals will bring both oil-related companies under the Riverstone umbrella.
By putting Centennial under Papa's leadership, Riverstone is effectively betting that Centennial's acreage in the Permian Basin of West Texas can be better developed with the veteran executive in charge, and fetch a higher valuation in the future than now in a public offering, according to the source.
The source, who spoke off the record because of the sensitivity of the deal, declined to comment on the size and value of the Silver Run stake. Representatives for Papa, Riverstone and Silver Run declined to comment. A representative for Centennial did not respond to requests for comment.
The deal activity suggests that big energy investors - especially in private equity - may be sensing a bottom in oil prices and accelerating buyouts.
Similar acreage and asset deals have been announced in recent weeks as the industry recovers from a more-than 50 percent drop in oil prices since 2014.
Papa, 68, formed Silver Run with the aid of Riverstone after retiring from EOG in 2013 following a 14-year tenure, creating what many analysts considered one of the best-run U.S. shale oil companies.
EOG's stock jumped more than 1000 percent under Papa, who shifted the company from a focus on natural gas production to oil just as U.S. shale development took off thanks to the development of hydraulic fracturing.
Chevron Corp (>> Chevron Corporation), Pioneer Natural Resources Co (>> Pioneer Natural Resources) and other large U.S. shale producers hold acreage in the same Texas region as Centennial, highlighting the area's attractive geology.
Denver-based Centennial said in regulatory filings last month that it would launch a $100 million (£76.2 million) IPO later this year, with proceeds used to pay down a loan and expand operations.
But Riverstone's U.K.-based subsidiary said on July 7 it would invest $175 million for a majority stake in Centennial, immediately eclipsing the planned IPO's potential.
Centennial has 61 wells operating, with plans to add more than 1,350 other drilling sites across the Permian, according to filings.
The company lost about $14.7 million in the first quarter.
Papa's Silver Run is a blank-check acquisition company (SPAC) that funds deals through stock issuance. It raised $450 million in an IPO earlier this year, telling investors it would try to buy companies that are "fundamentally sound" but underperforming due to low oil prices.
Papa had said last fall that U.S. oil production would slide in early 2016, a step that would help boost prices and make industry reinvestment financially palatable again.
Riverstone controls roughly 20 percent of Silver Run, according to regulatory filings.
(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)
By Ernest Scheyder