The Oil Mega-Merger You Almost Missed

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With all of the talk circling around the Treasury and toxic assets today, a historic merger barely made the headlines. But this is pretty huge.

Suncor Energy (NYSE: SU  ) and Petro-Canada (NYSE: PCZ  ) , each a formidable integrated energy company in its own right, are joining in an all-share deal to form a Canadian champion. While this pairing isn't quite on par with the deals that created U.S. supermajors like ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) earlier this decade, it's still a major event in the energy world.

We've seen Suncor struggle along with the rest of the oil sands operators as it faces prices that are hostile even to conventional oil projects. I think the firm made its merger motivations most clear during the conference call, when CEO Rick George pointed to the ability of ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) (NYSE: RDS-B  ) to invest "through the bottom part of the cycle." Basically, Suncor has been caught without the robust down-cycle cash flow profile of its larger, integrated peers, and it has been forced to drastically cut capital spending.

Petro-Canada, which is quite highly levered to lower-cost oil production, offers some much needed balance to Suncor's oil sands-heavy production profile. The combined firm will actually look quite a bit more like Canadian Natural Resources (NYSE: CNQ  ) between the conventional/heavy balance and the increased international profile. For Suncor investors, I think the dramatically improved cost profile ought to outweigh concerns about the loss of an oil sands pure play. Oil super-bulls expecting a quick return to triple-digit prices may disagree.

As for the deal terms, Suncor is paying a fairly fat premium for Petro-Canada, but that's coming off of a significantly depressed base. Based on proved and probable reserves -- which ignores a great deal of oil sands potential -- Suncor's not necessarily getting more than it's giving up (remember that Suncor is paying with its own shares). The deal does look attractive, however, in terms of flowing barrels, which Suncor is picking up at a fraction of the cost of its currently halted Voyageur expansion, and for less than Penn West Energy (NYSE: PWE  ) paid or Talisman Energy received in recent deals.

All things considered, I think shareholders on both sides should feel good about this deal.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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