Speculating about Seadrill (NYSE: SDRL ) Chairman John Fredriksen's next takeover move is something of a national pastime in his native Norway. The billionaire behind companies including Frontline (NYSE: FRO ) and Golar LNG is a legendary dealmaker, and rumors constantly circulate about his current quarry.
Over the past few years, Noble (NYSE: NE ) and Pride International are just two of the companies thought to be Seadrill takeover bait. The firm's actual purchases, including a savvy-looking distressed debt purchase last year, have proven more modest, at least so far.
Perhaps that's about to change.
Fredriksen was quoted by Bloomberg today as saying that he's "looking at everything that is reasonable." The Norseman specifically pointed to Transocean (NYSE: RIG ) as meeting his criteria -- possession of a low valuation and quality assets. Transocean does indeed sport a world-class fleet and a depressed share price, given the uncertainty surrounding its culpability in the Macondo blowout, but this is still a startling statement. Transocean is roughly 50% larger than Seadrill by enterprise value.
There are plenty of more digestible drilling firms out there, including Atwood Oceanics (NYSE: ATW ) , DryShips' (Nasdaq: DRYS ) Ocean Rig subsidiary, and Ensco (NYSE: ESV ) . In short, Transocean hardly seems the likeliest takeover target for Seadrill, but I suppose stranger things have happened in the wacky world of mergers and acquisitions.
The drillers' share prices are popping across the board today. My question for Mr. Fredriksen is this: If you're really looking to buy one of your competitors, why would you talk about it?