Category Archives: E&P

Houston companies reduce salaries for senior executives

In recent days, a few public companies in the Houston have announced salary reductions for senior executives as they battle with the economic downturn. The changes are temporary though most haven’t set a timetable for when they will be restored. A summary of the changes announced for the CEO and CFO officers is set out in the table below.

A shout-out to Cactus, an oilfield services company, who were the first to announce changes.

A couple of other comments

Occidental : All Executives had their salaries capped at $250,000. Furthermore, it appears that Oxy cut the salaries of all US employees making over $76,000 by 30%. It appears those making less got cut by 20%. Legacy Anadarko employees appear to have only got cut 4.9% to avoid breaching contracts in last year’s disastrous merger. That’s really going to help mesh the company cultures!

Group 1 Automotive : 3,000 US employees are furloughed for a 30-day period, with an option for a second 30-day period. 2,800 UK employees are furloughed for an initial period of 21 days. That’s about 40% of their workforce.

SEC filing – Group 1 Automotive

https://www.thelayoff.com/occidental-petroleum

 

CompanyPositionNameOld salary $000New salary $000% reduction
CactusCEOScott Bender30015050%
CactusCFOStephen Tadlock33526820%
Group 1 AutomotiveCEOEarl Hesterberg1,15057550%
Group 1 AutomotiveCFOJohn Rickel63050420%
Luby'sCFOScott Gray34217150%
Nabors IndustriesCEOTony Petrello1,7501,40020%
Nabors IndustriesCFOWilliam Restrepo65052020%
Occidental PetroleumCEOVicki Hollub1,25025080%
Occidental PetroleumCFOCedric Burgher72525066%
Superior Energy ServicesCEODavid Dunlap85068020%
Superior Energy ServicesCFOWesty Ballard44037415%
US Physical TherapyCEOChris Reading80048040%
US Physical TherapyCFOLarry McAfee51033235%

Katy man sentenced to 70 months in Venezuela bribery case

Alfonso Gravina of Katy, TX was sentenced to 70 months in prison for his role in a Venezuela bribery scheme and obstruction of justice. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the IRS of $214,949. He had previously paid restitution of $590,446.



Mr Gravina was employed as a purchasing manager at Petroleos de Venezuela S.A (PDVSA) in Houston. In December 2015, he pleaded guilty to accepting $590,000 in bribes between 2007 and 2014 from Abraham Shiera and Roberto Rincon in order to steer contracts to their companies.

Rincon lived in The Woodlands. He pleaded guilty in 2016. At the time of his arrest, the government alleged he controlled 108 bank accounts including three Swiss accounts that had over $100 million in deposits. He had been awarded $750 million in contracts from PDVSA between 2010 and 2013. Shiera lived in Florida. Both Shiera and Rincon await sentencing.

After his plea in 2015, Gravina met periodically with agents from Homeland Security Investigations. Gravina admitted that, during interviews with the government, he concealed facts about bribe payments to officials at Citgo Petroleum Corporation (a Houston-based subsidiary of PDVSA). At the same time, he provided details about the government’s investigation to a co-conspirator, including about the topics discussed during Gravina’s meetings with the government. This passing of information led to the destruction of evidence and to the co-conspirator’s attempt to flee the United States in July 2018.

Including Gravina, Rincon and Shiera, to date, the Justice Department has announced charges against 26 individuals, 20 of whom have pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation.

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/texas-businessman-sentenced-70-months-prison-role-venezuela-bribery-scheme-and-obstruction

Small Houston-based E&P company agrees to reverse takeover

Camber Energy (market cap $9 million), has agreed to a reverse takeover of privately-held Viking Energy. Both are E&P companies with their head offices in Houston. Camber is based downtown while Viking is in west Houston.



Currently the agreement is a non-binding letter of intent. The parties aim to sign a definitive agreement by February 17, 2020. Camber will issue shares with the Viking Energy shareholders owning 85% of the combined group post-closing.

Viking owns oil and gas leases in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kansas. It owns a working interest in 58 conventional producing wells in Texas and Louisiana. The company also has an interest in 30 salt water disposal wells. In October 2019, Viking agreed to buy another 123 wells in Texas and Louisiana for $40 million in cash. That deal has not yet closed and the merger with Camber is contingent on that acquisition closing. [UPDATE 02/06/2020 The deal has now closed for $46.3 million – revised cash flows and reserve information led to the change in price].

Back in July 2019, Camber entered into a merger agreement with Lineal Star Holdings, a private company involved in pipeline construction and integrity services. Camber ended up unwinding the transaction at the end of 2019 because the post-merger combined company was unable to meet the listing standards of the NYSE American.

Camber Energy used to be called Lucas Energy and went public in 2006. It’s had a troubled past. The strangest event was in October 2011 when the then-CEO made an acquisition for $22 million without telling the Board or making it public. The issue only came to light a year later when the seller sued for payment that was due in November 2012.

Viking Energy was the subject of my most bizarre post of 2019. In September 2019, the SEC announced fraud charges against a former CEO for creating a fake CFO.

SEC filing – Camber Viking merger

 

 

Shale well completions fall sharply in December

The number of wells drilled but not completed (DUCs) fell to 7,573 in December 2019, the lowest level since October 2018. This is according to the latest Drilling Productivity Report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The report covers key onshore unconventional (shale) plays.

The number of DUCs has fallen by 900 since May 2019.

More significantly completions fell sharply to 1,086 in December 2019, down 320 from the peak in the summer. Some of the downturn is due to E&P operators being under pressure to be cash-flow positive in 2019, so I would expect some modest rebound in Q1 2020. However, the likes of Halliburton and Schlumberger have announced significant reductions in pressure pumping capacity. That suggests a significant rise in completions is unlikely any time soon.

Note that, in August 2019, Spears & Associates published a podcast (EP125) ‘Mythical Beasts’ that cast doubt on the number of wells drilled but not completed. They point out flaws in the EIA methodology and have estimated that the number of DUCs is overstated by about 3,000. They conclude that there isn’t really a backlog of wells being held back by the E&P companies.

The EIA is projecting production of 9,178,000 barrels per day (bpd) for January. That’s up 33,000 on December’s number. For February, the projected rise is even lower (22,000 bpd). This suggests oil production from the unconventional shale plays is about to stall out.

https://www.eia.gov/petroleum/drilling/

Callon completes $750 million takeover of Carrizo

Callon Petroleum has completed its takeover of fellow Houston E&P operator, Carrizo Oil and Gas. The combined companies own 200,000 net acres in the Permian and Eagle Ford basins. As a result of the deal, Carrizo’s shares have been delisted.



The deal was originally announced in July 2019. At that time Callon had a market cap of $1.46 billion and Carrizo $1 billion. At deal close, the market caps were $1 billion and $750 million respectively.

As originally announced, the deal called for Carrizo shareholders to receive 2.05 shares of Callon stock for every share held. However Paulson & Co, a shareholder with a 10% stake, complained that Callon was paying a premium for Carrizo which was ‘unwarranted’. In October and November, ISS and Glass Lewis, two proxy advisory firms, recommended that Callon shareholders vote against the deal.

As a result, later in November, the terms were revised down to 1.75 shares of Callon stock. In addition, under the original terms, Callon management (the acquirer) were eligible for severance benefits as a result of the merger. The revised agreement removed these benefits.

Callon expects to save between $110 million and $170 million from combining the companies. Corporate overhead account for $35 million and $45 million, with the rest coming from operational synergies.

Carrizo had started talking to potential merger targets in the summer and fall of 2018. They did not hold their first meeting with Callon until January 2019.

All the executive officers of Carrizo stepped down as a result of the merger. The top five executives will receive severance payments of $26 million, of which $15 million is cash, the rest vested equity.

Greg Conaway, the Chief Accounting Officer of Carrizo (and not one of the top five executives) has been appointed to the same position at Callon.

SEC filing – Callon Carrizo merger

Small E&P company moves to Houston while another leaves

US Energy Corp (market cap $4 million) has moved its head office from Denver to the Galleria area. The company has revenues of $6 million, primarily from producing assets in North Dakota and Texas.



The company has had a rough couple of years. During 2018, the board of directors consisted of only four directors, including Chairman & CEO David Veltri. As a result the board often ended up deadlocked on important votes.

43% of the company is owned by APEG II, an Austin-based investment firm. They sent a letter to the board on February 2019, urging the company to create a seven-person independent board, establish a business plan and reduce general and administrative expenses. They also happened to be the company’s secured lender at the time.

Two weeks later, APEG withdrew access to the bank accounts and the board (excluding Mr Veltri) voted to fire the CEO for cause for using company funds in excess of authority granted by the board. The CEO and APEG then sued each other on various issues. The litigation takes up three pages of the recent quarterly report!

In May 2019, the Colorado Federal Court issued an order, appointing Randel Lewis as Custodian of the company and interim CEO.

CFO becomes CEO

On December 10, the company appointed CFO Ryan Smith to be its new CEO. Mr Smith will continue to be the CFO, a role he has held for the past three years.

The company currently has a share price of 31 cents. Back in June it was notified by Nasdaq that it was not in compliance with the $1 minimum share price. It was granted 180 days to comply. That expires on December 16, 2019.

Lilis Energy

While US Energy was moving its head office to Bering Drive, another small E&P company, Lilis Energy, was moving its head office from Bering Drive to Fort Worth. Lilis also has a troubled history.

The company only moved to Houston from San Antonio in June 2018. The company has a market cap of $12 million. It, too, has a delisting notice from NYSE for having a share price below $1.

Joe Daches was recently appointed CEO, having served in an interim capacity since June 2019. Like Ryan Smith at US Energy, he is also the CFO of the company as well.

You can see the complete list of Houston-area public companies on my blog here.

SEC filing – US Energy Corp – new CEO

CFO out at Houston E&P company

Gleeson Van Riet has resigned as CFO of SilverBow Resources, effectively immediately. He has been replaced by Chris Abundis, currently General Counsel of the company. Mr Abundis will perform the CFO duties in addition to his current role.



SilverBow is based in west Houston and has a market capitalization of $148 million. The company operates in the Eagle Ford basin in South Texas. It was formerly known as Swift Energy which filed for bankruptcy in December 2015. After the company emerged from bankruptcy in April 2016, it changed its name to SilverBow.

Mr Van Riet was appointed CFO in March 2017. Prior to that he was the CFO of Sanchez Energy. For his severance package he will receive a payment of one year’s salary ($390,000) and one year’s target bonus ($292,500).  He will also receive an acceleration of time-based restricted stock units. These were valued at $85,000 at December 2018.

Mr Abundis joined the company in 2007 and has been the General Counsel since April 2016.

It’s not clear what triggered the departure of Mr Van Riet. The share price has halved since the start of the year, but that’s in line with other E&P companies. The company is not especially leveraged and generated a small positive free cash flow in the third quarter.

However the company did disclose a material weakness in internal controls in the second quarter pertaining to deferred tax accounting. This remained a weakness in the third quarter.

SEC filing – SilverBow CFO

 

Houston E&P company appoints new CFO

Penn Virginia Corporation has appointed Rusty Kelley as its new Chief Financial Officer, effective November 13, 2019. He replaces Steve Hartman, who is leaving the company as previously previously reported in July.



Penn Virginia filed for bankruptcy in May 2016 and moved its headquarters from Pennsylvania to west Houston as part of that process. It emerged from bankruptcy in September 2016.  In October 2018 the company announced that it would be acquired for $1.7 billion (including debt) by Denbury Resources. However that deal collapsed in March due to shareholder opposition.

Mr Kelley was previously the CFO of Extraction Oil & Gas, a public company based in Denver, from July 2014 to September 2019. Prior to that he worked as an investment banker for Moelis & Company and Goldman Sachs. He will have a base salary of $400,000.

Penn Virginia currently has a market cap of $411 million and an enterprise value of $933 million. That’s way below the $1.7 billion that Denbury agreed to pay. Given his investment banker background, I presume Mr Kelley has been brought in to help sell the company.

SEC filing – Penn Virginia new CFO

 

 

E&P company delisted after takeover

Isramco, an E&P company with its head office in the Galleria, has been delisted after its takeover by Naphtha Israel Petroleum, an Israeli public company. It’s been a long time coming. Back in March 2018, it was announced that Naphtha was in preliminary stages of evaluating a transaction. The deal was announced in May 2019.



The company was formed in 1982, focusing on exploration and production in offshore Israel. In 1997 it expanded its activities to the United States, which are now mainly in the Permian Basin.

The chairman and co-Chief Executive of Isramco is Haim Tsuff. He also controls Naphtha. Prior to the takeover, Naphtha and other entities controlled by Tsuff owned 73% of Isramco. The value of the takeover was $330 million, though the amount of cash outlay to third parties is $89 million.

The reason for the takeover appears to be a dispute between the company and Isramco Negev 2 Limited Partnership, another entity controlled by Mr Tsuff. The disagreement relates to what costs Negev should be included in its calculation of royalty payments on the Israeli Tamar field to the company.

The company believes it would win in arbitration. The claim against Negev could exceed $45 million. However, a bigger risk is that Negev stops paying Isramco its monthly royalty. In 2018, its royalty revenue was $31 million, or 38% of its total revenues.

You can see the complete list of Houston-area public companies here.

SEC filing – Isramco

 

Mineral and royalty interests company files for IPO

Fortis Minerals LLC, based in downtown Houston, has filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Although the filing with the SEC states the company plans to raise $100 million, that is likely a placeholder. Renaissance Capital estimates the company could raise $400 million.

Fortis plans to list on the NYSE under the symbol NRI.



The company owns oil and natural gas mineral and royalty interests in the Permian Basin and the Stack play located within the Anadarko Basin of Oklahoma. The company was formed in 2016 with the backing of PE firm, Encap Investments.

For the 12 months ending 30 June 2019, the company had revenues of $138 million and adjusted EBITDA of $113.8 million.

Acquisition Joint Venture

The company also has formed an acquisition Joint Venture with Encap that could cause some conflicts of interests. Encap will own 100% of the capital interests in the JV while Fortis will own a carried interest, entitling the company to a percentage of distributions by the JV.

The JV will only consider acquisition opportunities brought to it by the company. Fortis states that the JV will only buy properties that represent attractive long-term value  but which would not be expected to increase cash flows in the short term following acquisition. However, Fortis may acquire these properties at a later date.  Encap will control the board of the JV.

The company states that they and the JV may jointly pursue an acquisition where the company would predominantly acquire interests in properties expected to be developed in the short term and the JV would predominantly acquire interests in acreage anticipated to be developed on a longer time horizon.

Management team

The CEO of the company is Christopher Transier. He was formerly the CFO of Escondido Resources. The CFO is Brad Wright. He was previously the Managing Director – M&A and Strategic Planning at Plains All American Pipeline.  With the exception of Scott Dole, Chief Accounting Officer, who is 62 years old, the rest of the management team are 36 years old or younger.

Just because the company has filed its registration statement, there is no guarantee that it will complete its IPO. If it does, I will add it to the list of Houston-area public companies. You can find that list here.

SEC filing – Fortis S-1