Americans might be addicted to oil, but the world's largest integrated oil company is addicted to natural gas. ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) has gone on a natural gas shopping spree, with no end in sight -- and Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) should top its list.
Exxon execs recently revealed the company is looking for some "liquid plays." Chesapeake would be a good place to start that search.
Chesapeake is heavily committed to the natural gas liquids market. The company plans to allocate 75% of its 2012 capital expenditures to NGLs, up from 30% in 2010. The extreme shift to natural gas liquids could seriously boost revenue, considering that NGLs historically follow the price of crude.
Nat gas transportation
Chesapeake is taking the lead in the natural gas transportation movement by tackling the CNG infrastructure problem. It recently revealed plans to fund Clean Energy Fuels (Nasdaq: CLNE ) , the nation's leading natural gas station operator.
In addition, Chesapeake is seeking partnerships with gas station chains in more than 17 states to increase the availability of natural gas infrastructure.
Essentially, Chesapeake plans to compete with big oil for a place in your fuel tank. Exxon could eliminate this nuisance by acquiring Chesapeake and steering funds away from natural gas transportation projects. Then Exxon could proceed with its plan to sell oil as a transportation fuel and natural gas for power generation.
Free natural gas
Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon, believes the company's unproved reserves are valued at "absolutely zero," or a $40 billion discount. McClendon goes on to say that Chesapeake shares should sell for twice as much.
If the math adds up, Exxon or any other energy company with the financial resources should certainly seize the opportunity to acquire Chesapeake at a severe discount.
The bottom line
Chesapeake is a perfect fit for Exxon. However, a deal is far from a sure thing. Chesapeake appears significantly undervalued, and it may ask more than Exxon is willing to pay.