43% of private equity investors plan to deploy capital into oil and gas by first half of 2017

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Private equity (PE) firms are readying to deploy capital into the global oil and gas sector with 25% planning acquisitions before the end of the year and 43% by the first half of 2017, according an EY global survey of 100 PE firms active in the sector.

In Q1 2016, Mergermarket surveyed 100 private equity firms that have made at least one investment in the oil and gas sector over the past two years. More than half of respondents (52%) are based in North America, 26% in Europe, 12% in the Asia-Pacific region, 5% in Latin America and 5% in the Middle East and Africa.

With US$971.4b of PE dry powder from June 2016 still to be deployed, EY’s survey, Capitalizing on opportunities: Private equity investment in oil and gas, reveals that PE firms are now preparing to increase investment into the sector.

Andy Brogan, EY Global Oil & Gas Transactions Leader, says:

“Access to financing is arguably the biggest challenge facing oil and gas companies. While many expected PE funds to swoop in with capital during the oil price downturn over the last 18 months, investment has fallen short. But the tide may be turning. Greater consensus over the oil price future and more favorable asset valuations are improving the conditions for PE, and we expect to see an uptick in deals before the end of the year.”

Deal structures

Due to the debt burden of many PE-backed oil and gas companies, creative capital structures are on the rise. Of the 71% of respondents exploring new capital structures, 62% cite joint ventures (JVs) and drillcos and 59% cite contingent pricing as the most popular options.

Michael Rogers, EY Global Deputy Private Equity Leader, says:

“As oil and gas companies try to raise capital and reduce debt amid the lower-for-longer price outlook, exploring new capital structures and strategies has become almost mandatory for investors. PE-backed companies are looking to joint ventures to help them cut costs, while others hope contingent pricing will offer much-needed price stability.”

Geographic and subsector landscape

When it comes to where capital is being deployed, the EY survey findings reveal increased attention to rising energy demand in emerging economies.

All respondents (100%) expect to see more PE involvement in Asia-Pacific — up from 79% in the last survey conducted in 2013. Low cost, ease of doing business and general macroeconomic growth is drawing investors to this region.

Similarly, 99% of respondents believe PE interest in North America will grow. Medium-sized companies looking to service debt, or merge or sell assets are providing ample opportunities for funds looking to bolster their existing portfolios. The US shale gas and oil boom has attracted major PE involvement over the past few years to basins such as the Eagle Ford and the Bakken. PE has also contributed to financing liquefaction plants and export terminals projects.

With regard to industry subsectors, PE firms are set to become more involved in the midstream and upstream segments in the next two years. An equal share (44%) of respondents see these two sectors as their best opportunity for return on investment.

In today’s low oil price environment, PE firms are well-positioned to provide short-term and long-term financial solutions across the oil and gas sector, with 63% saying they will provide value to corporates through growth capital.

Brogan says: “PE firms have an important role to play in today’s transforming oil and gas sector. Opportunities will continue to emerge over the course of the year as more companies succumb to the new normal oil price environment. Funds looking to invest will need flexibility, patience and clear strategic plans to take advantage of a buyer’s market.”

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